Health Desk—August 12, 2017: Discussants at a roundtable in the capital on Thursday put emphasis on five essential neonatal cares to reduce the death rate of newborns.
They said Bangladesh needs to reduce Neonatal Mortality Rates (NMR) to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The country has, however, made remarkable progress in the sector in comparison with the other countries in the South Asia region.
The neonatal mortality reduction rate in the country has to be increased to 4.6 per cent from its current rate of 3.6 per cent, reveals a study of Bangladesh Demographic Health Survey (BDHS).
The study revealed that though the overall child mortality rate has reduced in the country, neonatal mortality mortality rate in proportion to the under-5 mortality rate (U5MR) has soared up.
Health directorate’s NBHP and IMCI programme manager M Altaf Hossain presented this picture of the neonatal mortality rate at a roundtable on Essential Newborn Care (ENC), organised on Thursday with support from Unicef at the initiative of Prothom Alo.
The discussion, held at the Prothom Alo office in Dhaka’s Karwan Bazar area, was moderated by the daily’s associate editor Abdul Qayyum.
The research also divulged that 88 per cent of neonatal deaths in Bangladesh are from three highly preventable causes: severe infection, asphyxia and complications of premature birth.
Speaking as chief guest, state minister for health and family welfare ministry, Zahid Malik, put emphasis on building awareness to reduce the child and neonatal mortality rate.
Zahid Malik also said the government has trained about 1,500 midwives in proper childbirth methods. The required number is, however about 21,000, he added, quoting an UN survey.
BRAC’s health, nutrition and population programme’s (HNPP) Asadur Rahman focused on training people close to the new mothers. “In the context of Bangladesh, most of these women don’t have anything to say about neonatal health care.
Mothers-in-law, mothers, sisters-in-law and others take decisions.”
Health directorate’s MNC&AH line director Jahangir Alam Sarker said, “The government has devised the National Newborn Health Programme (NNHP).” He said, “We have been working with a view to take newborn health care to each doorstep with the help of NGOs and other development partners.”
Family planning directorate’s director (MCH-Services) and line director (MCRAH), Mohammad Sharif, said, “We have been providing free delivery kits, which include 15 necessary items, at about 2200 union health and family welfare centres.”
He also urged the state minister to arrange at least one ambulance for each union health and family welfare centres. “The ministry need to bear the cost of fuel and other expenses of the ambulance dedicated to pregnant women. This will change the whole scenario.”
Care Bangladesh’s programme director (health) Jahangir Hossain stressed the need for training family members of expectant mothers and the community about the five essential newborn cares (ENC), the rate of death will decrease.”
Putting emphasis on three-day delayed bath for the neonatal, Bangladesh Perinatal Society’s member secretary MAK Azad Chowdhury said, “We were the first people who persuaded the government to include 72-hour delayed bath in the health strategy.”
ICDDRB’s senior director Shams L Arefin said while increasing primary health care activities in Khulna, Sylhet and other areas of the country where neonatal and child mortality rate are high, the authorities must not exclude Dhaka and Chittagong.
He also focused on functional integration among the different bodies working in the sector.
Paediatrician and Birdem Hospital’s director general Nazmun Nahar said, “Fathers also have to take the responsibility. They have to learn about the complications during pregnancy.”
Pro vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) M Shahidullah asked the development partners to assist the government instead of introducing isolated programmes. “New programmes can be adopted if any new field emerges.”
Unicef health specialist Shamina Sharmin said, “Most of the neonatals die within the first 24 hours of their birth. If we can invest in saving the neonatals within the first day, the success will triple.”
Family planning directorate director general Kazi Mostafa Sarwar said, “Neonatals mainly die for three reasons - infection, asphyxia and complications of preterm birth. These are preventable. Awareness can prevent these deaths. Family planning directorate is trying to ensure ‘clean and safe delivery’ to decrease the child mortality rate.”
Health directorate director general Abul Kalam Azad said, “The research has to be in-depth and multidimensional. We must not raise health care activities only in Sylhet and Chittagong.”