WESTPORT, Conn. -- Save the Children/U.S., a leading nonprofit children's development and relief organization, received today a $50 million, five-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to save newborn lives worldwide. The grant will support a global Saving Newborn Lives initiative to increase access to programs and low-cost technologies to substantially reduce the estimated 5.4 million annual deaths of newborns. The Gates Foundation award represents the largest private grant to Save the Children/U.S. in its 68-year history.
"Most of these deaths are preventable through simple, low-cost programs and technologies," said Charles MacCormack, President of Save the Children/U.S., "but the international health community has focused relatively little attention on newborns in the context of other child survival programs. In fact, despite dramatic improvements in child survival rates over the past three decades, newborn death rates have only slowly declined, and now represent a larger proportion of child deaths than ever before."
Of the 8 million deaths each year of children under age one, nearly two-thirds (5.4 million) are newborns. Ninety-eight percent of these deaths occur in the developing world, with more than 90 percent of these deaths occurring in the home, most in the absence of a trained health provider. The major causes of these deaths are infections (42 percent); birth asphyxia and birth injuries (32 percent); congenital birth defects (11 percent); and premature births (10 percent).
Save the Children/U.S. will lead this initiative in partnership with prominent technical and academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations and government agencies in at least six to eight developing countries. The initiative will focus especially on the largest countries in Asia and Africa where the bulk of newborn deaths occur. Save the Children/U.S. will work in partnership to:
Expand the scale and reach of successful programs, including maternal tetanus toxoid immunizations, vitamin and mineral supplements (especially iron folate), breast-feeding promotion, and access to family planning to enable women to space their births.
Refine and replicate programs that show promise, including hookworm and malaria treatment for pregnant women, training for community workers to provide clean and safe deliveries, and community level diagnosis and treatment of newborn pneumonia, diarrhea and other infections.
Test new technologies and approaches, including a single antibiotic treatment to prevent newborn eye and umbilical cord infection, and a suction device to clear the infant's air passages.
Launch a global information and advocacy campaign, including increased awareness and understanding of the magnitude of the problem, and what can be done to address it.
Today's award was announced during President Clinton's visit to India, where nearly 28 million children are born annually. Of those who die in the first year of life, most will die in the first month -- many without seeking or receiving health care. Under the global Saving Newborn Lives initiative, Save the Children/U.S. hopes to work with local partners in several countries, including India, to give many of these newborns a better chance of surviving the first month of life by improving and expanding pregnancy-related and newborn care at the community level.
According to MacCormack, "This campaign gives us an unprecedented opportunity to advance a critical component of the unfinished global agenda for children. We expect to see a dramatic improvement in newborn survival rates over the next decade. Nothing could be more central to the mission of Save the Children than to make this life-saving difference in the lives of the world's most vulnerable children."
Save the Children/U.S. is an international nonprofit child-assistance organization, working in over 40 countries worldwide, including the United States. Our mission is to make lasting, positive changes in the lives of children in need. Save the Children/U.S. is a member of the International Save the Children Alliance, which is a worldwide network of 26 independent Save the Children organizations working in more than 100 countries to ensure the well-being and protect the rights of children everywhere. For more information, visit Save the Children on the web.
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