SDG target: End preventable deaths of newborns and children under age five, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births.
Neonatal mortality has been declining, but more slowly than mortality among older children. Part of the reason for this pattern is that in general, newborns die when health systems falter.
This is precisely what is happening now. Many facilities are even more short-staffed and under-equipped than usual. The pandemic is likely to push some pregnant women to deliver their babies at home. In either case, women and their babies may not have access to lifesaving care. Saving newborns requires providing pregnant women with high-quality, dignified prenatal care by a skilled facility provider—and when facility-based birth is impossible, ensuring that in-home deliveries are attended by a skilled birth attendant with a safe birth kit to prevent infections and manage emergencies.
We also need to understand much more about the impact of COVID-19 itself on pregnant women and newborns. Specifically, pregnant and breastfeeding women and children should be included in vaccine clinical trials so that we know whether vaccines are safe and effective for them.