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Survive and Thrive: Transforming Care for Every Small and Sick Newborn

  • 26 Dec 2018
  • 4 min read

According to a recent study by a global coalition that includes UNICEF and WHO, the world will not achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 (to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages) unless it transforms care for every newborn.

  • According to UNICEF, India witnesses 25.4 newborn deaths per 1,000 births and 0.64 million newborn deaths annually. The Sustainable Development Goal for neonatal deaths requires all countries to bring down the figure to 12 deaths or less per 1,000 births by 2030.

Key Findings

  • An estimated 30 million newborns require specialised care in hospital every year without which many either die or develop preventable health conditions and disabilities that affect them for life.
  • Newborns who are born too soon or too small, or who become sick, are at the greatest risk of death and disability.
  • The challenges facing small and sick newborns and their families include scarce services, barriers to care-seeking (such as a lack of awareness, transportation or finances) and discrimination.
  • Additionally, the financial and psychological toll on their families can have detrimental effects on their cognitive, linguistic and emotional development.
  • Universal access to quality care could prevent 1.7 million neonatal deaths, or 68% of the deaths that will otherwise occur in 2030.
  • As many as 2.9 million women, stillbirths and newborns can be saved during 2030 in 81 high-burden countries if there are interventions for both mother and newborn at the same time, at the same place, by the same healthcare provider.


  • Providing round-the-clock inpatient care for newborns seven days a week.
  • Training nurses to provide hands-on care working in partnership with families.
  • A family-centred approach that strengthens parents’ skills and competence in caring for their small, sick or high-risk infant reduces stress and anxiety, and benefits the newborn’s weight gain and neurodevelopmental progress.
  • Providing good quality of care should be a part of country policies, and a lifelong investment for those who are born small or sick.
  • For continuous quality improvement, countries not only need to collect data about small and sick newborns but also to monitor the data systematically, evaluate it rigorously, and – while guaranteeing confidentiality and data security – share it with relevant partners. Only then can decision-makers guide investments and drive action for better newborn survival and development outcomes.
  • Low and middle income countries will be able to avert two out of every three neonatal deaths by 2030 if they increase their investment by $0.20 per capita.

Way Forward

  • The report maps out a pathway towards 2030. To transform all aspects of newborn care, from its availability and quality to its uptake and affordability requires all stakeholders – governments and partners, competent health-care professionals, professional associations, private sector organizations, researchers, empowered parents, and engaged communities – to work together.
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