Newborn Health

UNICEF works with partners to ensure that every child survives and thrives

A new born at the Intensive Care Unit of Bolgatanga Regional Hospital on 20 April 2018.
UNICEF/UN629242/ACQUAH

Challenge

There has been slow progress in reducing under-five and maternal mortality due to the lack of special care needed by newborns, especially during the first 28 days of life.

There has therefore been a global shift in focus on newborn survival. Ghana has made some progress in reducing child mortality but it is not enough.

About 70 babies lose their lives every day. This is mainly due to premature birth, infections and complications during and after delivery. In spite of the availability of skilled antenatal care and birth attendants at health facilities during delivery, newborn and maternal deaths remain high.

In 2014, the Global Newborn Action Plan was launched with clear targets and strategies to prevent neonatal deaths and still-births. This Action Plan was established in response to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Solution

Phillip and Gloria Baawuo with their as yet unnamed son (traditionally children are not named until their seventh day) at the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital in the Upper East region of Ghana. They are using kangaroo mothercare - or in this case, fathercare! - a low-tech approach to keeping premature babies warm, to keep their son warm without the need for an incubator.  This simple technique has been responsible for greatly improving the survival rate of low-birthweight babies.
UNICEF/UN209833/QUARMYNE
Phillip and Gloria Baawuo with their son at the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital in the Upper East region of Ghana on 20 July 2015.

UNICEF has helped the Government of Ghana to develop a National Newborn Strategy and Action Plan and is working with partners to implement programmes that are working. These include the Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), a low-cost but efficient technique where mothers wrap their premature babies to their chests with a piece of cloth. It is proven that close body contact with the mother helps stabilize a baby’s body temperature, steady heart rates, make breathing easier and is also conducive to breastfeeding. 

Other initiatives include preventing the spread of infection by promoting hand-washing with soap under running water among health workers and care-givers and training heath workers to strengthen their skills to prevent and manage complications during birth and immediately after birth.
 

A baby being fed with a syringe at the Tamale Teaching Hospital in the Northern Region of Ghana on 24 September 2013.
UNICEF/UN937610/QUARMYNE
A baby being fed with a syringe at the Tamale Teaching Hospital in the Northern Region of Ghana on 24 September 2013.

These interventions have the advantage of being cost effective. For example, with Kangaroo Mother Care, mothers act like human incubators, keeping particularly preterm and low-birth-weight infants warm and safe from infections. It is a useful alternative in a country like Ghana where incubators are expensive and not easily available.  

In order to ensure that newborns — especially premature and sick — survive and thrive, areas known for high neonatal mortality and under-served districts and communities have been prioritized and are being supported by the Ghana Health Service with support from UNICEF.  

Additionally, UNICEF also provides behaviour change communication and supports the development of  guidelines and national policies in support of newborn care.