Study suggests ways to cut infant mortality

Kathmandu, November 7:

Neonatal mortality rate can be reduced by 53 per cent in the country if babies can be saved from infections during childbirth, according to a study. Nepal has the highest infant mortality rate in South East Asia.

According to a finding presented today to the Child Health Sub-Committee meeting at the Department of Health Services by three pilot projects done by developing partners, the mortality rate has dropped down to 25 per cent from its base line data, as per the Morang Innovative Neonatal Intervention (MINI) Pilot Project done by donor agencies in Morang district since April 2004.

The findings show neonatal mortality rate can be reduced if septicemia infection is detected among the newborns and given zentamycin injection for seven days.

Infant mortality rate (IMR) in Nepal is 64 out of 1000 children under one year out of which 60 per cent babies die during birth. The babies up to 28 days are very vulnerable to infections and diseases. Similarly, another study conducted in Sarlahi shows that the neonatal mortality rate can be reduced by 28 per cent by protecting the babies from infection by cleaning the umbilical cord with Chlorexidine.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that the newborns should not be bathed till 24 hours, as they could suffer from hypothermia.

Similarly, if the babies are given low dose vitamin supplements at the time of birth, the infant mortality rate can be reduced by 24 per cent. The newborns can be saved if they can be protected from infections.

“Low dose vitamins can reduce 24 per cent of the infant mortality. Same dose of vitamin supplements given after 24 hours makes no difference in mortality rate,” stated the outcome presented today.

Dr Sun Lal Thapa, programme manager at the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI), told this daily that the government approved National Neonatal Health Strategy last year. “If the project recommends providing antibiotics by the volunteer health workers and mother-child care health workers along with protective measures, it will help to reduce neonatal mortality rate,” said Dr Thapa.