Unicef Zimbabwe urges government to invest in newborn health

Government should invest in approaches that improve the monitoring of newborn health, the UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe said on Friday.

By Kuda Pembere

Addressing the Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZIMA) conference Dr. Tajudeen Oyewale said it was important to invest in research and approaches that enhance newborn health.

“I call on both the Government and experts to invest more in innovative approaches to monitor newborn health, especially at the community and improve referral linkages to facilities. At the same time, new investment in Implementation research to allow us to better understand the current practices with a view to achieving higher impact for women and newborn,” he said.

He added that integration of Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) into Emergency Preparedness and Response is necessary to ensure critical newborn care interventions are not disrupted during emergencies, including during climate hazards. “This require improve coordination, ring-fencing of budget and support to health workers to sustain services,” Dr Oyewale. “Refocusing investment on the greatest burden of deaths by investing in Universal Health Care Services that priorities maternal and newborn health interventions, and with financial protection for vulnerable families.”

He noted that this speaks directly to the National Health Sector Strategy and should be further expanded to focus intervention on Adolescent Girls and Young Women, HIV Prevention, treatment and care and Contraceptive Services and Nutrition Services.

Dr Oyewale said there was need to increase investment in Primary Health Care system to ensure that every district hospital, at a minimum, provide emergency obstetric care and Small and Sick Newborn Care by building on current investment in essential medicine, supplies and commodities, promotion of community outreaches and mainstreaming of the village health workers into the National care cadre as part of the implementation of the national community health strategy of the Government.

According to Zimstat Vital Statistics report, a total of 439,458 live births were recorded during 12 months preceding the census night, of which 27.6 percent (120,542) were by women aged 20 to 24 and the crude birth rate was 28.9 live births per 1,000 population in 2022.

The national Neonatal Mortality Rate (NMR) and Post-Neonatal Mortality Rate (PNMR) were 9.5 and 14.7 per 1,000 live births, respectively. Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) was 24.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. Child Mortality Rate (CMR) was 15.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. Under-5 Mortality Rate was 39.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Zimbabwe’s infant and maternal mortality rates have declined by 20 and 36 percent, respectively, since 2009.

The number of pregnant women who received prenatal care increased from 57 to 70 percent, while mothers accessing care after giving birth had soared from 27 to 78 percent.

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