Newborn Health Innovations
Ensuring sustainable access to affordable, robust healthcare products for every newborn to survive and dream big.
Preventable newborn mortality and morbidity are unacceptably high. Every year over 2.7 million newborns lose their lives within the first month, accounting for 45% of deaths among children under the age of 5 globally. 99% of preventable newborn deaths happen in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
In LMICs, there are considerable challenges in accessing comprehensive, innovative and appropriate newborn care products for timely and accurate diagnosis. This contributes substantially to preventable maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality.
of under-5 child deaths occur in newborns.
2.7 million children
died in their first month every year globally.
2.6 million babies
died in the last 3 months of pregnancy or during childbirth.
UNICEF is working with partners to improve the availability of needed technologies for essential newborn care at all health system levels and drive demand for existing and upcoming newborn product suites. Efforts are also focused on identifying gaps and increasing accessibility to sustainable, affordable, and easy-to-use products suitable for low-resource settings, giving every child in every community a fair chance to survive and dream big.
Below is the list of UNICEF DREAMS (Devices for Rapid Early Assessment, Management and Support) Suite for Newborn Health:
Ensuring appropriate and comprehensive newborn care products available at health facilities can help save millions of babies in the first 28 days of their lives.
Through project PILOT (ProcureMate for Integrated Lifesaving Obstetric and newborn Technologies), UNICEF worked to develop the Newborn Health Procurement Tool, an easy-to-use and comprehensive platform that empowers healthcare systems, ranging from small clinics to high-level decision-makers, to understand and effectively use essential newborn care products. The tool provides real-time data on restocking and repair needs for consumables and spare parts. It serves as a ‘one-stop-shop’, facilitating easy selection and procurement of necessary products in suitable quantities either via UNICEF or locally by providing detailed specifications. By customising solutions for each facility, considering factors like power availability and risks for electricity blackouts in low-resource settings, the tool can guide the creation, expansion or refurbishments of newborn care units.
Ensuring a long-term sustainable procurement of affordable and vital newborn essentials, the tool plays a key role in achieving the target that 80% of districts in every country must have at least one inpatient newborn care unit, as outlined in Every Newborn Action Plan, improving the quality of care for newborns around the world.
Jaundice occurs in almost all newborn patients. Early screening and diagnosis are crucial for enabling effective phototherapy treatment and prevent the progression of severe cases that could lead to potential brain damage due to limited access to blood transfusion within eight hours.
UNICEF is working on project BALLERINA (Bilirubin Assessment to initiate Light therapy) that aims to introduce and increase access to the innovative neonatal Transcutaneous bilirubinometers (TcB) devices for early jaundice screening and detection in low-resource contexts. Hand-held and non-invasive, the devices accurately measure bilirubin levels using a light-emitting sensor placed on the newborn’s skin. They can replace unreliable screening methods like visual assessment and other complex and costly blood-sampling devices. Easy-to-use, reliable and affordable, TcB is well-suited for low-resource contexts. Increased accessibility helps achieve the goal of universal screening for neonatal jaundice, preventing newborn mortality and giving every child a fair chance to a healthy early childhood development.
Adequate thermal support during transport can be critical to a newborn’s survival in the first hours of their lives.
Through project Heat Emergency Response (HERO) for Optimal Neonatal Care, UNICEF is innovating to introduce and accelerate access to devices that provide effective thermal support during neonatal transport, as newborns are most vulnerable to body temperature drops, particularly when falling below 36°C. Transport incubators and warmers for instance offer a controlled, enclosed warming environment for newborns during their journey to receive extra care. The thermal protection is especially crucial for preterm infants when they require additional thermal support alongside or in absence of Immediate Kangaroo Mother Care (continuous skin-to-skin contact between the mother or another caregiver and the newborn). These warming devices are lighter and more manoeuvrable than traditional incubators and can operate on low- or off-power conditions in hospitals and vehicles, well suited for low-resource settings. Essential in any new-born referrals, increased access to the transport warming devices as standard newborn care is critical to prevent mortality in neonatal patients. Products for newborn hypothermia treatment are available in the UNICEF catalogue.
Hypoglycaemia affect 5–10% of healthy infants and 54% of late preterm babies. In low-resource settings, newborns often rely on cheap and non-standardised adult glucometers intended for diabetic patients, which fails to provide adequate, consistent monitoring of rapidly fluctuating glucose levels in newborns. Inaccurate diagnosis and delayed treatment can in severe cases cause brain injury.
To prevent the risks, UNICEF’s fireFIGHTer (Fast Identification for Glucose Healthcare and Treatment) project focuses on introducing and scaling up access to newborn-appropriate, affordable and easy-to-operate glucometers especially suitable for low-resource settings. The goal is to enable accurate, routine glucose monitoring for all newborns during the first 24 hours and beyond if necessary. Increased access to appropriate devices as standard of care for every newborn contributes to the target of improved quality of care of every child around the time of birth and the first week of life, allowing them to survive and thrive.
Effective and timely ultrasounds scans are important to monitor and ensure the baby’s healthy development before and after birth.
An early ultrasound scan before 24 weeks of gestation is recommended for pregnant women to accurately determine the gestational age, detect any fetal abnormalities or multiple pregnancies, and enhance the overall pregnancy experience. In low-resource settings, maternal and neonatal healthcare faces challenges due to limited access to expensive and specialized traditional ultrasound machines, primarily concentrated in urban areas.
Through project ASTRONAUT (Affordable Sonographic Technology: Rapid, On-site Ultrasound), UNICEF is working to promote portable, cost-effective, and user-friendly point-of-care ultrasound devices that can be easily deployed in health facilities in rural and remote communities. These tools can be used by non-specialist healthcare providers, offering essential information to guide maternal care or facilitating potential referrals to higher levels of care.
UNICEF calls upon governments, health professionals, parents and other partners to join us: