Cord infection leading cause of death in newborns: moot told

KARACHI: Project Manager Mercy Corps Pakistan Dr Shoaib Ahmed Shahzad on Wednesday said around 2.9 million babies died within 28 days of their life, out of which one million died within 24 hours and most of newborn death occurred in low and middle-income countries.

He shared these statistics while addressing a workshop on topic “Improving Chlorhexidine Advocacy for Newborn”, organized by Marcy Corps, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) working in various health projects in Pakistan, in collaboration with Research and Advocacy Fund (RAF). Coordinator Mercy Corps Dr Sajjad Siddiqui was also present on this occasion.

Dr Shahzad said two-thirds of all newborn mortality occurred in 12 countries with a neonatal mortality rate of 30 or more death per 1,000 live births, hence accounting for 60 percent of all newborn deaths. He said Pakistan is one of these countries.

He said birth asphyxia, prematurity and sepsis was the three major preventable causes which were responsible for more than 85 percent of newborn mortality.

He said under-five mortality rate in Pakistan is 89 per 1,000 live births and about two third of these deaths occurring during the neonatal period (55 newborn babies per 1,000 live births) and umbilical cord infection is the leading cause of neonatal deaths occurs in the country. He said death ratio can be reduced through proper use chlorhexidine.

He said Pakistan was among the countries where 85 percent newborn babies died due to umbilical cord, prematurity and infection in short time after birth. He said Pakistan had the third highest number of newborn deaths in the World (194,000 in 2010).

He said 30 percent of neonatal deaths occur due to sepsis as a baby’s newly cut umbilical cord could be an entry point of bacteria which can lead to cord infection and potentially life-threatening sepsis.

He said in infection risk to the infant is greatest in countries where most deliveries are completed by unskilled attendants at the woman’s home, unsafe practices like cutting the birth cord with unsterilised materials, and the application of substances such as ash, surma (lead-based concoction) and oil are common in many rural areas of the country.

He said cleaning the umbilical cord with the antiseptic called chlorhexidine could reduce neonatal mortality in significant manner. He said appropriate chlorhexidine application eliminates three-quarter of serious umbilical infections.

Coordinator Mercy Corps Dr Sajjad Siddiqui urged the media to play their due role in creating awareness about cord infection in order to reduce mortality among neonatal stages in the country.

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