MANILA, Philippines – Today marks 500 days until the Millennium Development Goals reach their conclusion and the Philippines looks set to miss the target for reducing preventable child deaths.

The 2015 MDG 4 target for Philippines is 20 deaths per 1,000 live births. Whilst there has been some improvement from the 60 deaths per 1000 in 1990, there has been little progress in cutting down neonatal mortality (deaths in the first month of life), which makes up almost half of all under-5 deaths. Save the Children’s global study on newborn deaths. released earlier this year reveals that Philippines is one of the top 10 countries in the world with the greatest gap in equality for newborn deaths between poorest and wealthiest, and between rural and urban households. Babies born to the poorest and hardest to reach groups are most at risk of dying within few days after birth.

Extreme natural disasters are also likely to contribute to deaths among newborn babies due to collapse of health systems and unhygienic conditions in the aftermath of an emergency.

With 500 days left to meet the targets for UN MDG 4, Save the Children is urging the Philippine government to address inequality in newborn deaths and its underlying causes, particularly lack of skilled health personnel in the rural areas to provide quality health services and guide new mothers on breastfeeding. Studies have shown that early breastfeeding may reduce almost a quarter of newborn deaths, and may help cut down at least 75 per cent of deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia. The 2013 National Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) review indicates that out of the 1798 hospitals with maternity services, only 24% percent have been certified as complying with the Mother Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (MBFHI), a global effort launched to implement practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
According to Dr. Amado Parawan, Health and Nutrition Advisor of Save the Children,

“Life is at its most fragile in the first few days after birth. Newborns require healthcare, and life-saving interventions before during and after emergencies.”
Dr. Parawan added, “It is not impossible to reach the MDG target on child deaths but the country needs to urgently invest in lifesaving neonatal interventions and prepare the health system to provide care during disasters.” Earlier this year Save the Children committed ?10m to mitigate newborn deaths in emergencies by providing clean birth kits in storm-proof boxes (the BEACON box) to be used to deliver babies in the case of an emergency.
Save the Children is calling on the government, civil society, local government units (LGUs) , funding agencies and the private sector to commit to the following to improve newborn and child survival:
* Fast-track the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) guidelines and Policy on Integrated Management of Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), for both development and humanitarian settings.
* Increase LGU investments for health to trainings, improvement of health facilities and increase the number of health work frontliners and human resources directly involved in the implementation and monitoring of policies related to newborn and child survival.
* Include the coverage for premature births in the national health insurance program.
* Enforce the Mother and Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (MBFHI) in all hospitals with maternity services. (PR)