Today, the Chinese Government, through its international aid agency, the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDAC), has handed over medical supplies to the Ministry of Health to improve the quality of health care provided to newborn babies in two zones of Tigray and SNNP regions in Ethiopia.
The medical supplies procured by UNICEF are part of the project entitled “Improving the quality of health care provided to newborn babies in two zones of Tigray and SNNP regions, Ethiopia,” launched in March 2020. It covers 61 health centres, 229 health posts, and six primary hospitals in the two regions. An estimated 94,000 pregnant women and newborn babies are expected to benefit from the project.
The supplies handed over to the Ministry include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) bubbles with canula for newborn babies, hand operated neonate resuscitators, oxygen concentrators, neonatal room thermometers, pulse oximeters, midwifery kit/equipment, delivery beds, and other essential supplies crucial for the survival of newborns.
In addition to tailored procurement of these essential supplies and equipment, the support from the Chinese government helps to improve the quality of health care for newborn babies through competency-based training of health workers, clinical mentorship, and supporting data reporting and use by health practitioners across the primary health care system – health posts, health centres, and primary hospitals.
So far, through the project:
– 62 midwives have been trained and 96 health facilities mentored on basic emergency obstetric and newborn care basic emergency (BEmONC), including essential newborn care;
– 131 health workers and 487 health extension workers (HEWs) have been trained on newborn and child health care; and 292 health facilities have received post-training follow-up visits;
– 76 nurses and doctors have been trained on newborn intensive care management for sick and small newborn babies; and
– 68 health care professionals have been capacitated in using the District Health Information Software (DHIS2) application platform.
“The People’s Republic of China is proud to support the Government of Ethiopia through a strong partnership with UNICEF to tackle the most pressing challenge in the country- reduction of neonatal mortality,’’ said H.E Yang Yihang, Minister Counselor of Economic and Commercial Cooperation at the Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia.
“The reduction of newborn mortality is a top priority of the Ethiopian Government as stated in the Health Sector Transformation Plan. We are aiming to reduce neonatal mortality from 33 deaths in 1000 live births in 2019 to 21 in 2024/2025. This support is contributing significantly to reaching this goal, working in such a remote geographic area,” said Minister of Health, Dr. Lia Tadesse. “Most newborns can survive and thrive, provided they have access to quality health care, including access to appropriate inpatient care. This requires well-trained, well-supported and well-equipped health workers.”
“Reducing maternal and neonatal deaths is at the heart of UNICEF’s work in Ethiopia,” said UNICEF Representative Adele Khodr. “We are grateful to the People’s Republic of China for their generous financial support to scale up newborn care services across the continuum of care and across the Ethiopian health service delivery system.”
Ethiopia has achieved commendable results in the reduction of under 5 mortality from a very high level of 222 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 59 deaths per 1000 live births in 2019. Despite this reduction, deaths of newborn babies have remained high, with an estimated 112,000 dying every year and accounting for 55 per cent of all under-5 child deaths (Mini EDHS 2019).
In addition, an equivalent number of stillbirths occur, representing a ‘silent epidemic’. More than 80 per cent of all newborn deaths occurs from three preventable and treatable conditions – complications due to prematurity, intrapartum-related deaths (including birth asphyxia), and neonatal infections (WHO 2014).
Improving the quality of care around the time of birth will save the most lives, but this requires an educated and well-equipped health worker as well as availability of essential supplies (WHO 2014).