The National,Tuesday 08th November 2011
EFFECTIVE village health practices by volunteers and community health workers will save the lives of 10 newborns in Papua New Guinea every day, an Australian study has revealed.
The report by the Burnet Institute and World Vision Australia said good food and some form of education, along with regular support for women in pregnancy and childbirth, would save 70% of the 5,300 newborns who die each year in PNG.
“Even simple measures like encouraging breastfeeding in the first week could cut early childhood deaths by 8-19%,” the report said.
World Vision Australia chief executive officer Tim Costello said the report was presented to the Australian parliament and to AusAID, and it would form part of the advice to the health sector in PNG.
He said a stronger village health volunteer workforce delivering the proposed care packages in PNG could save up to 32% of maternal deaths, 70% of newborn deaths and 50% of all child deaths each year if implemented in 90% of rural PNG.
“This would rapidly assist PNG meet its UN millennium development goals to cut maternal deaths by half and child deaths by two-thirds by 2015,” Costello said.
The authors of the report, Dr Chris Morgan and Abbey Byrne from the Burnet Institute, said: “We found that other nations with resources similar to PNG such as Nepal and Pakistan have significantly reduced mothers’ and children’s deaths through innovative work at the family and community level, and this could be replicable in PNG.”
Sue England, World Vision’s maternal, newborn and child health adviser, said: “The biggest impact could be on saving newborn babies’ lives.
“At least 60% of all babies in rural PNG are born at home.
“Training village health volunteers and families to keep the newborn warm, cut the cord with a clean blade, breastfeed the baby early and promptly recognise signs of infection is essential.”
Up to half the lives of the 9,000 children who die each year, aged under five, in PNG could be saved with broad, community-based nutrition and management of pneumonia and diarrhoea, the two biggest killers, the report said. – Pro Bono Australia