Focussing on Every Newborn – Ethiopia taking action

By Dr Kebir Hassen

On November 24, Ethiopia, one of the first countries to launch A Promise Renewed,welcomed global development partners to Addis Ababa to launch the Lancet Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP). Present at the event were representatives from Ethiopian civil society, UNICEF, Save the Children International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other key partners.


Mother and Father check the condition of their baby. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2005/Getachew

With 84,000 newborn deaths every year, Ethiopia ranks in the top ten for neonatal mortality. But despite this worrying statistic, Ethiopia has also been ranked fifth in the world as having the greatest potential to save maternal, perinatal and neonatal lives by 2025 by authors of the Lancet Every Newborn Series.

The country has achieved impressive progress on overall child survival, cutting under-five mortality by 67 per cent since 1990 and meeting its Millennium Development Goal 4 target three years ahead of deadline.

Despite the challenges it faces, Ethiopia has demonstrated strong commitment, and taken concerted action – action which is paying dividends. Since Ethiopia launched Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed in 2012, it has worked to scale up efforts to accelerate declines in preventable new-born deaths and is currently revising its national newborn and child survival strategy for 2015-2020, sharpening its focus on newborn survival in an effort to accelerate progress and fulfil its promises to its children.

The Addis Ababa event, following on from the 2014 Global ENAP Launch in New York, presented an opportunity to discuss the latest global findings on newborn health and the efforts taking place in Ethiopia. Speaking at the event, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Patrizia DiGiovanni, called on all partners to renew commitment to newborn survival. “Newborn survival is as attainable as child survival,” said Ms DiGiovanni. “We know why and when newborns are dying and we know what we need to do to reduce neonatal mortality.”


Patrizia DiGiovanni, Representative a.i., UNICEF Ethiopia, speaks at the Launch of the Lancet Every Newborn Series in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Tesfaye

The Lancet Every Newborn series has identified the period around labour and the day of birth as the most dangerous times for mothers and their babies. The series highlighted a number of most effective interventions for saving newborn lives, including breastfeeding, newborn resuscitation, ‘kangaroo mother care’ for premature babies, application of antenatal corticosteroids, and treatment of newborn infections with antibiotics.

Dr Gary L. Darmstadt, author of the Lancet Every Newborn series, spoke at the event, emphasising the potential for rapid progress on newborn health. “Countries that have made recent, rapid reductions in newborn and maternal deaths have done so by expanding the number of skilled health workers, rolling out innovative mechanisms to reach the most underserved families, and focusing on improving care for newborns,” said Dr Darmstadt.

In Ethiopia, a country where close to 29,000 babies die on the same day they are born, action on newborn survival remains a key priority.

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