The neonatal period is the most vulnerable time for a child’s survival. Of the estimated 5.9 million child deaths in 2017 globally, almost 1 million occurred in the first day of life and approximately 2 million in the first week3. Preterm birth complications (35 percent), intra-partum related complications (24 percent), and sepsis (15 per cent) continue to cause neonatal deaths globally in the reporting period. Most deaths of children under age five are caused by diseases that are readily preventable or treatable with proven, cost-effective interventions4 .In Africa, most countries are either showing stagnation or are reducing neonatal mortality at very slow rates and therefore still maintain very high neonatal mortality rates compared to countries in other regions. The current neonatal mortality rate in Africa (27 deaths per 1,000 live births) is the highest in the world and contributes nearly 40% to the global burden5.
Neonatal mortality rates among EAC partner states in 2017 remained high above the SDG target of lower than 12 per 1000 live births (SDG 3.2). It ranges from 28 in Tanzania, 23 in Burundi, 27 in Uganda, 22 in Kenya, 20 in Rwanda and 38 in South Sudan6. Observation of the current EAC neonatal death rates, they more than double the required SDG target of less than 12 per 1000 live birth. This implies that for EAC partner states to reduce NMRs to required threshold, they will also have to double efforts to be on track by 2030.
EAC partner states need to take lessons from other African states that have lowered their NMRs including Libya, Mauritius, Tunisia, Seychelles, South Africa and Cape Verde.
3 United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, 2017.
4 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2018. Every Child Alive: The urgent need to end newborn deaths. 1211 Genève 10, Switzerland. https://data.unicef.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Every-Child-Alive-report_FINAL-1.pdf. Accessed November 28, 2018.
5 African Union (2017). Status Report On Maternal Newborn Child and Adolescent Health: Focusing On Unfinished Business in Africa
6 EAC RMNCAH Scored Card 2016; KDHS 2014, RDS 2015-15, TDHS 2015-16, UDHS 2016, BDHS 2016-2017, Country Progress Reports and Score cards (2017), Country Facts Sheet and bulletins 2017, MOH Annual health bulletin 2017, HMIS 2017, Statistical year Book 2017 and Strategic /development Plan documents 2016-2021