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Joint press release

Global Conference Stresses Urgent Need to Prioritize the Health of Newborns

Scaling up Existing Interventions Could Save the Lives of Up To Two Million Babies Each Year

JOHANNESBURG, 15 April 2013 – Representatives from over fifty countries gathered today for the opening session of the first-ever Global Newborn Health Conference (#Newborn2013) in Johannesburg, South Africa.

His Honorable Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa’s Minister of Health, welcomed conference participants last night at a reception that featured Ms. Yvonne Chaka Chaka, founder of the Princess of Africa Foundation and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Mrs. Graca Machel, incoming Chair of the Board for the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, and UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Agostinho Zacarias.  The audience included nearly 500 health experts, government officials and stakeholders. 

“When a family hears of a pregnancy and of a birth, the response is to celebrate this new life and the opportunity and joy to watch a child grow up healthy,” said Mrs.  Machel at the opening of the conference. “Yet each year, for millions of parents, this joy ends in tragedy as children needlessly die in the first month of life from preventable causes.” 

Leading newborn health experts and government officials are convening this week to address newborn mortality and galvanize the global community to action. The conference will focus on helping countries develop action plans designed to reduce the deaths of babies during the first month of life.

“With less than 1000 days to reach the Millennium Development Goal 4 of reducing under-5 child mortality rates, saving newborn lives is instrumental to our success,” said Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director.  “We need to act on the evidence available that clearly demonstrates that simple interventions for mothers and children work.” 

“We now need the political will to deliver and turn goals into lives saved.”

Each year, three million children die within their first month of life from three largely preventable or treatable causes: prematurity, severe infections and birth complications including problems babies have breathing at birth. Of the 6.9 million children under five who died in 2011, about 43 per cent of the deaths took place during the first four weeks of life.  More than 2 million died within the first week after birth.

 “This conference comes at a critical moment to accelerate progress in newborn survival, by galvanizing efforts to mobilize governments, donors, local partners and communities to make newborn deaths a top priority,” said Ms. Koki Agarwal, Director of USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP). “We know babies being born to die is a tragedy for families and communities and robs nations of the development potential for future generations.”

The Conference will focus on addressing the challenges and opportunities involving the scaling up of life-saving, innovative interventions including low-cost medicines, equipment and health strategies such as exclusive breastfeeding at birth.  Widespread use of these interventions could save up to two million newborns each year.

“We have the tools to prevent newborns from needlessly dying each year,” said Mr. David Oot, Save the Children’s Associate Vice-President of the Department of Health and Nutrition. “However, while many countries have made progress in newborn health, no low-income country so far has achieved sustained, effective, and equitable coverage of what we know works at scale to save newborn lives.  In fact, if current rates of reduction in neonatal mortality continue, it would take Africa over 140 years to reach the current rates that now exist in high-income countries.”

“A healthy newborn, born from a healthy mother, has more opportunities to grow into a healthy child within the community,” said Gary Darmstadt, Director of Family Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  “We can’t look at newborn health without considering all other aspects holistically.  Now is the time to focus newborn health within the broader context of healthy productive lives.”

The organizing partners of the Global Newborn Health Conference include: USAID, MCHIP, Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the Every Woman, Every Child Counts and A Promise Renewed campaigns.

The entire conference can be watched live via webcast at www.newborn2013.com


UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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About A Promise Renewed

In June 2012, the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States with UNICEF launched a global roadmap to end preventable deaths of children under the age of five. Since then, under the banner of Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, more than 170 countries have signed up and renewed their commitment to child survival.

About Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

For more information, please contact:

Charlene Reynolds, +1 202 412 3550, creynolds@mchip.net

Emma de Villiers, + (27) 73 156 3650, edevilliers@unicef.org
Bloemen, +(27) 79 495 5938, sbloemen@unicef.org

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Katie Harris, + 1 206 658 5513, katie.harris@gatesfoundation.org

Lindsey Kirn, + 1 57 1232 6609, LKIRN@usaid.gov




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