Spoiler- These are the ramblings of a passionate future Paediatrician.😷
The thrill of picking out a name for a newborn cannot be underestimated, ask any well-bred parent. But this is not the case everywhere, for there is a divide that still exists between the rich and the poor, especially in terms of neonatal healthcare. In some parts of Ethiopia for example, mothers delay this sacred ceremony out of dread, unable to see a future for their children beyond their first month. Afraid that the baby will die, the loss is deemed much more bearable if the baby has no name; when their babies are no one.
According to UNICEF, 2.6 million babies worldwide die before their first month. Still, much is unknown about the causes since the only way to get more information is for public health workers to interview the already bereaved mothers who themselves have no idea what took away their children. These interviews are both painful and not really helpful as infants tend to be stable even a few minutes before their death.
The #Helpachildreach5, Lifebuoy Global Hand washing Day Campaign that has just recently been initiated in Kenya is honestly, a step in the right direction. If we could embrace this challenge and approve of this humble yet healthy task of proper hand washing for both ourselves and our children, we could reduce infant mortality by a staggering figure.
Public health officers could also embrace more the precision public health approach that has been in use for eradicating HIV and Malaria in developing countries. This approach targets health problems that are abundant in a certain population, acting as a domino effect that eradicates it in less affected populations also. Screening women, especially of child-bearing age, for HIV in populations with a high incidence of the disease would cut neonatal deaths by almost half or more. The approach is a cheap and safe strategy that can employ antiretrovirals, simple antibiotics and vaccines to reduce this abominable incidence of deaths. When the problem is well defined, the right interventions are afforded to the right populations, providing hope to many mothers and children.
With this and more innovative approaches, neonatal deaths would be a thing of the past as we drive out malnutrition, malaria, HIV and other development negators for a brighter day.
A time is coming and it’s not far, when the public health professionals join hands with the innovators, the scientists and organizations to bridge this gap between rich and the poor and that the African child can live past their 5th birthday and beyond. And that every parent will have confidence to name their child and hope they’ll live out their lives in decades and not days.