The Australian program, Saving Lives – Spreading Smiles, will provide maternal and newborn care to 10,800 mothers and babies in Papua New Guinea. The Australian government and UNICEF Australia coordinated their efforts to save thousands of mothers and their newborns. Through the use of innovative technology, the program is preventing infant mortality from rising in the region.
Every year, around 6,000 babies in Papua New Guinea die before they reach four weeks of age. Due to a lack of medical resources and readily available medical support, many infants die from neonatal hypothermia: a drop in the normal bodily temperature of 36.5 to 37.5 degrees Celsius. However, experts have estimated that 42% of these deaths can be prevented with the proper management of hypothermia and the provision of the necessary tools.
Australian funding means improved maternal and newborn care will benefit 10,800 #mothers and their newborn #babies in Milne Bay Province, #PNG. @DFAT #AustralianAid @POCruises @UNICEF_PNG #ChildRights https://t.co/NC0ZHQPLDJ pic.twitter.com/VdErVsuPFp— UNICEF Australia (@unicefaustralia) July 15, 2019
This week, the program was successfully launched in Alotau, Papua New Guinea. It mainly consisted of the distribution of a comprehensive care package created to ensure the babies’ survival for the next three years. It includes a non-pneumatic anti-shock garment designed to prevent and manage post-birth bleeding. This external pressure suit stabilizes the woman’s bleeding, and its low cost makes it readily available for distribution. Along with the suit, a hypothermia alert device (Bebi Kol Kilok) is provided to detect a baby who may need assistance warming up.
UNICEF and the Department of Health are coordinating to work directly with provincial governments in order to provide as much access as possible to the life-saving kit. Other than the local authorities, church health services and smaller NGOs are more connected with the residents’ needs, so both agencies also aim to collaborate with them. With their help, the program can continue to improve, as they become more tailored to solve specific local grievances.
. #Children make up nearly half of the people living in extreme #poverty. To reach the furthest behind, first and lift them out of poverty, governments must measure and address #child poverty routinely. #HLPF #SDG10 https://t.co/qHAn4csa2Q pic.twitter.com/MhMRB9yluz— UNICEF Australia (@unicefaustralia) July 11, 2019
So far, the program’s future is looking bright. It’s simple, cost-effective, and life-saving. With its continuous implementation and improvement, many women in Papua New Guinea have less fears giving birth; both them and their child can make it through alive. It could also be used as a model for other countries experiencing similar difficulties with maternal and newborn care. Every baby deserves a chance to grow up and be with their mother, so programs like these are vital to the provision of that human right.