The lives of up to 10 newborn children in Papua New Guinea could be saved every day by straightforward and cost effective measures according to a new report.
The report by the Burnet Institute, World Vision Australia and Compass: the Women’s and Children’s Health Knowledge Hub, said these measures could be delivered by local community health workers, acting with support from local clinics.
Educational and nutritional measures with better support for women in pregnancy and childbirth, along with broader availability of community-based care for newborn illness, could save the lives of newborns, avoiding up to 70 per cent of the 5300 newborn deaths each year in PNG.
Dr Chris Morgan from Burnet’s Centre for International Health co-authored the report with Abbey Byrne, which found measures like encouraging breastfeeding in the first week could cut early childhood deaths by up to 19 percent.
“We found that other nations with resources similar to PNG’s, such as Nepal or Pakistan, have been able to significantly reduce mothers’ and children’s deaths through innovative work at the family and community level and this could be replicable in PNG,” Dr Morgan said.
According to the report, up to half the 9000 children who die each year under five in PNG could be saved with broad coverage with community-based nutrition and management of pneumonia and diarrhoea, the two biggest killers.
World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello said the report was presented to the Australian Parliament and to AusAID.
“We will also inform discussion with the PNG Health Department. All of us are looking for the best use of resources that will bring the most effective results,” Reverend Costello said.
A stronger Village Health Volunteer workforce, supported by the local health system, delivering the proposed care packages to 90 percent of rural PNG could save:
· Up to 32 percent of maternal deaths
· 70 percent of newborn deaths
· 50 percent of all child deaths each year
This would rapidly assist PNG in progress towards its UN Millenium Development Goals.