Newborn survival

Every expectant mother hopes for a healthy baby. But, every year in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately one million babies die on the day they are born; two million in the first week of their lives. Most of these deaths are preventable with simple interventions.

Our take on the issue

More than 2,800 babies die every day in sub-Saharan Africa.

Most emergencies happen during labour, so having a skilled birth attendant and life-saving equipment are crucial. However, only 54% of births in sub-Saharan Africa take place in a health facility.

Skilled birth providers are able to provide advice on essential newborn care, such as beginning breastfeeding an hour after birth and continuing for at least the first week of life. Additional simple interventions after birth – such as immediately drying babies, skin-to-skin contact and hygienic cord care – can reduce newborn deaths by more than 80%. Encouraging mothers to stay in a health facility for at least 24 hours after birth can be challenging, but it helps to spot problems and improve a newborn's chances of survival.

Prematurity causes a third of all newborn deaths, while babies that do survive often experience far-reaching effects on their development and long-term health. Despite this, many health-workers lack the skills to care for small, sick babies. Simply keeping a newborn warm, through kangaroo mother care, could save a life.

Unfortunately, many newborn deaths and stillbirths that happen across the region are not recorded or investigated. Some women are made to feel responsible, adding shame and silence to their grief.

Sustainable Development Goal 3.2 (SDG3.2) calls for an end to preventable deaths of newborns by 2030, and a global reduction in neonatal mortality to at least 12 per 1,000 live births.

What mamaye is doing

At MamaYe, we support the Every Newborn Action plan. We strive to break down the stigma of stillbirth and newborn deaths while raising hopes of newborn survival.

Globally and across sub-Saharan Africa, we address quality gaps in maternal and newborn care through our advocacy and evidence initiatives – including the scorecards and infographics we produce. We're calling for investments in life-saving interventions and resource allocation to reduce stillbirths and save newborn lives. We do this by highlighting the potential return on investment, which can be four times the sum put in.

We want to encourage facilities and communities to count and acknowledge each newborn death. Death registration data is crucial for many health indicators and for decision-making processes.

Our work aims to challenge taboos, so that women and families are supported through their grief. In Malawi, MamaYe activists created short plays to break down the stigma around newborn deaths.