Enhancing Neonatal Health in Lebanon: A Partnership between the Ministry of Public Health, UNICEF and the National Collaborative Perinatal Neonatal Network
30 November 2023 – The National Collaborative Perinatal Neonatal Network (AUB NCPNN), in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) and UNICEF, is making significant strides in enhancing newborn care in Lebanon. As part of the Newborn Care Project, Baalbeck Governmental Hospital has been identified as one of the four Peripheral Governmental Hospitals receiving support to strengthen neonatal care services.
The focus of this initiative is the newly established Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Baalbeck Governmental Hospital. Following meticulous assessments, gap analyses, and capacity-building efforts facilitated by the MOPH, UNICEF, and AUB NCPNN, this project aims to elevate the standard of neonatal care and address the challenges identified in the system.
Minister of Health, Dr. Firas Abyad, said: “I am pleased to inaugurate this project in Baalbek Governmental Hospital, related to premature babies, especially since government hospitals lack departments that provide this service.” He pointed out that "the Intensive Care Unit for newborns and premature babies is not just about incubators, devices and equipment, but rather requires the presence of skilled staff. Hence the importance of the special training and educational program that includes 4 governmental hospitals: Baalbek, Zahle, Tripoli and Halba."
In conjunction with this event, the consortium is launching the 2023 Report on Newborn Survival in Lebanon. The report sheds light on the concerning trend of deteriorating neonatal care, affecting years of progress in newborn results and outcomes in the country with a rise in neonatal mortality to approximately 1040 newborn deaths in 2022.
“The ongoing economic challenges and the departure of healthcare providers are now giving rise to a concerning increase in neonatal mortality,” said Edouard Beigbeder UNICEF Representative in Lebanon. “We reaffirm our commitment to enhance the quality and accessibility of newborn care by improving the quality of care at the neonatal intensive care units in rural hospitals, the data quality and to scale up the generation of national evidence to minimize newborn mortalities and morbidities”.
Dr. Khaled Younis head of pediatrics and neonatology department at AUBMC, reveals that “the peripheral hospitals in the country are facing a series of challenges, including critical staff shortages, limited access to benefits, inadequate training, financial constraints, the absence of standardized policies, and a lack of essential equipment. These challenges pose significant risks to the health outcomes of newborns and raise medicolegal concerns” he also stressed "the importance of monitoring and accountability, and to encourage new graduates to work in the peripheral health centers and hospitals"
The comprehensive report key findings underscore the urgent need for improving health services through the establishment of cost-effective NICUs in rural facilities, the promotion of Kangaroo Care (KC) within NICU care, prioritizing primary health care (PHC) as the foundation of health services, and fostering increased collaboration between central and peripheral hospital NICUs.
Additionally, the report recommends the development of standardized national guidelines and policies for quality newborn care, the efficient utilization of limited funding, and the generation and use of data to guide the health system. This collaborative effort reflects a commitment to the well-being of newborns in Lebanon. By addressing the identified challenges and implementing the outlined recommendations, the consortium aims to create a sustainable and robust neonatal care system for the future.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org/lebanon/.