Some two-thirds of child deaths are preventable through practical, low-cost interventions if these are delivered in an integrated, effective and continuous way, starting with a healthy pregnancy for the mother, through birth and care up to five years of age.

Health risks to newborn babies are minimised by:

  • Quality care during pregnancy
  • Safe delivery by a skilled birth attendant
  • Good neonatal care: immediate attention to breathing and warmth, hygienic cord and skin care, and early initiation of exclusive breastfeeding.
  • Insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent transmission of malaria
  • Antiretrovirals for women with HIV, along with safer delivery and feeding practices.

Providing timely, accessible, quality care could prevent almost three quarters of infant deaths each year and substantially reduce maternal deaths. The package of essential care includes antenatal care, obstetric care and a birth attendant who has the ability to resuscitate newborns at birth.

Most infection-related deaths could be avoided by treating maternal infections during pregnancy, ensuring a clean birth and hygienic cord care and promoting immediate and exclusive breastfeeding.

For mothers and babies with an infection, antibiotics are lifesaving and need to be available locally. In addition, low-birth-weight babies need to maintain their body temperature through skin-to-skin contact with the mother.

Strengthening health systems is a key element in increasing survival rates, but this is not enough on its own. Women, their families and communities also need education and information so they can care for themselves, recognise the risks and demand access to the care they need.

Women and Children First works at both levels – to strengthen and support health service provision and to engage, inform, increase confidence and raise expectations in women. The organisation works with its partners to promote a participatory learning and action cycle focused on women’s groups. Addressing both the supply of and demand for accessible, quality care has been demonstrated to reduce newborn mortality by up to 45% in marginalised rural communities.