Drive to reduce child mortality receives $65m

Saturday February 03 2024

A new born baby is held by a lady. PHOTO | NMG


Efforts to reduce newborn mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa have received a significant boost after a $65 million funding was extended for the campaign.

The initiative — The Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST360 alliance) — focuses on addressing the region's high newborn mortality rates, with the goal of limiting the deaths to no more than 12 per 1000 live births.

The campaign is targeting the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 3.2.

Newborns face very different chances of survival around the world, simply due to where they were born. Of the estimated 2.3 million newborns who die every year around the globe, mostly from preventable causes, African countries have the highest rates of mortality.
An African newborn has almost 10-times the risk of neonatal death compared with a baby born in Europe or the US.

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Adequate medical care could ensure the survival of 75 percent of the estimated 1.1 million African newborns who die each year.


The initiative spans clinical, biomedical, and public health expertise, implementing a systems-change approach for effective newborn care. The five-year Phase 2 targets a fundraising goal of $90 million, impacting key countries and expanding the network to Ethiopia.

“Most approaches to small and sick newborn care have focused on single interventions, but most newborns will have more than one problem and, therefore, require multiple interventions,” said NEST360 co-founder Dr Nahya Salim, a clinical pediatric specialist at Tanzania’s Muhi.

“As a clinician, I have learned firsthand how important it is to have the right space, the right devices, adequately trained staff, and locally owned data to ensure every newborn can arrive, survive, and thrive.” he added.

“Improving quality for small and sick newborn care in NEST360-implementing countries and beyond requires a systems-change approach that cuts across all levels of care,” said NEST360 co-founder Rebecca Richards-Kortum, a bioengineering professor at Rice University, during the announcement of the award on Wednesday last week.

“This includes addressing the multiple clinical needs of the individual patient; ensuring the design, availability, and maintenance of appropriate equipment and sufficient clinical and biomedical staff at facilities across a district; and implementing national policies to support overall care.”

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The alliance's expansion into Ethiopia builds on existing national-level initiatives called Saving Little Lives, fostering sustainable, country-led change.

This second five-year phase of the initiative will build upon progress achieved in Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, and Nigeria during the initial phase (2019-2023), where the alliance, in partnership with the countries’ governments, says it improved the quality of care for about 100,000 babies admitted each year to the 67 hospitals implementing NEST360.

The goal is to impact five key countries that contribute to almost 50 percent of newborn deaths on the continent. Comprising experts from 22 institutions and organisations, the alliance adopts a systems-change approach to improving newborn care. With a goal to extend its influence to 144 implementing hospitals, the NEST360 program endeavors to instigate lasting transformation through collaboration with African governments and stakeholders.

The initiative, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, The ELMA Foundation, and individual contributions, aims to align with the UN 2030 SDGs.