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Rate of newborn babies’ death has reduced, but far from SDGs target – Pate



The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, says in spite of successes recorded in reducing neonatal deaths, Nigeria is still far from attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target in that regard.

Pate said this during an event to commemorate the 2023 World Prematurity Day with the theme: “Small Actions, BIG IMPACT: skin-to-skin care for every baby everywhere” in Abuja on Friday.

It was reported that the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Three on ‘Good Health and Well-being’ is geared toward ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.

The SDG goal 3.1 aims to reduce global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births, while goal 3.2 seeks to end preventable death of newborns and children under five years of age by the year 2030.

The goals are for all countries to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-five mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births.

Pate, who was represented at the event by the Permanent Secretary, Ms Daju Kachollom, said Nigeria is still far from the target of reducing neonatal deaths to 12 per 1,000 live births.

He described preterm as babies born alive before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

According to him, preterm is the leading cause of death among children under five years of age and that available data on neonatal mortality is not encouraging.

He added that “the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) of 2013 recorded neonatal mortality at 37 per 1,000 live births, while the 2018 NDHS put the figure at 39 per 1,000 live births.

“The 2016/2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) also reported neonatal mortality rate at 39 per 1,000 live births.

“However, the 2021 MICS report showed a five point drop in the neonatal mortality rate, indicating that combined efforts are beginning to yield some results.

“Although the drop represents a reassuring motivation for all new born stakeholders, the nation is still quite far from the target.”

The minister, therefore, said that the ministry was building the capacity of 120,000 frontline health workers as part of efforts to reverse the ugly neonatal indices, adding that “part of the training curriculum include skills on essential newborn care and other interventions.”

He said the ministry had also articulated various interventions necessary for the reduction of neonatal mortality rate in the country.

He unveiled four policy documents geared toward reducing newborn death, particularly due to preterm births.

The documents, he said, are the Nigerian Every Newborn Action Plan, the Chlorhexidine Scale up Strategy, the Facilitators Guide for Comprehensive Newborn Care Course, and the Caffeine Citrate Market Survey, which are set for dissemination.

Pate also said that preventing deaths and complications from pre-term birth starts with a healthy pregnancy.

He explained that key interventions such as counselling on healthy diet, optimal nutrition, early ultrasound to help determine gestational age and detect multiple pregnancies are very important.

He stressed the need for a minimum of four contacts with health professionals throughout pregnancy, starting before 12 weeks to identify and manage risk factors to preventing preterm birth.

He said “evidences have shown that the Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is one of the key interventions specific to the care of the small baby.

“In addition to thermal protection, evidence shows that prolonged skin-to-skin contact by the mother allows early bonding and improves breastfeeding.”

The minister also stressed the need to address the issue of neonatal infections, shown to be leading cause of death in Nigeria, largely arising from umbilical cord infections.

On the roles of Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) in reducing the mortality of newborns, Pate said that government at all levels were working toward ensuring that primary basic healthcare is provided.

He added that government was working with agencies and partners to train more medical personnel, as more doctors and nurses were needed to fill the gap.

“We are actually looking at the number of zero dose children and we want to ensure that we reduce to the barest minimum, the number of children who have not been immunised.

“Unfortunately, as it is today, Nigeria has the highest number of under five deaths in the world and the ministry is not taking that lightly.

“I assure you that we are working assiduously, that in this new dispensation, you will see a new revived, revamped health sector.”

The Director, Family Health Department, Dr Stella Nwosu, who spoke about the theme of this year’s World Prematurity Day commemoration, said the nation must reflect and identify bottlenecks that hamper the delivery of optimum care to preterm babies and raise sufficient attention for necessary positive actions at all levels.

She added that the chances that a preterm baby born in Nigeria would survive were small compared to similar condition in developed clime.

“It is high time we strive to ensure significant reduction in this survivorship disparity gap in pre-terms,” she said.

It was reported that the day, which is commemorated globally on Nov. 17 every year is an opportunity to advocate for essential care for women and newborn care for every baby everywhere and to highlight the benefits of methods that save lives.

Folasade Akpan

NEWSVERGE, published by The Verge Communications is an online community of international news portal and social advocates dedicated to bringing you commentaries, features, news reports from a Nigerian-African perspective. A unique organization, founded in the spirit of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, comprising of ordinary people with an overriding commitment to seeking the truth and publishing it without fear or favour. The Verge Communications is fully registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a corporate organization.



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