Lives of thousands of newborns and their mothers in PNG to be saved as Australian Aid funding expands UNICEF/ PNG government program nationwide

SYDNEY, Wednesday 12 September 2018:  The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in partnership with the Papua New Guinea National Department of Health, will expand a successfully piloted maternal and newborn care project across the country from today, thanks largely to an injection of funds provided by the Australian Aid program.
 
The innovative program focuses on preventing neonatal hypothermia (low body temperature) in newborns and managing bleeding after delivery, a common cause of death in mothers.
 
“Once implemented, this initiative will save the lives of thousands of newborns and their mothers, as well as provide training to parents, carers and health workers about caring for babies over the first month of life,” said UNICEF Australia’s Associate Director of Programs, Felicity Wever. “A key element of this initiative is an anti-hypothermia bracelet, known locally as Bebi Kol Kilok, which will help prevent annual deaths from hypothermia among approximately five thousand premature and newborn children.”
 
“Papua New Guinea has the highest rate of newborn deaths in the region, with about 6000 babies dying every year before they reach four weeks of age – that’s about 17 newborns a day – and this has not improved over the last 20 years,” said UNICEF Australia CEO, Tony Stuart. “The Bebi Kol Kilok bracelet, which encourages correct hypothermia management, including kangaroo mother care, can prevent 42 per cent of these deaths.”
 
Aside from addressing critical child survival issues, the project involves care of mothers through active management of the third stage of labour, prevention and management of post-partum haemorrhage and maternal anaemia, as well as early detection and referral of sick mothers by community health workers.
 
Papua New Guinea Minister for Health and HIV/AIDS, Hon. Sir Puka Temu said, “Our government is focused on reducing the high maternal and neonatal mortality rates. This is a highly cost-effective intervention. I’m also very excited that fathers are recognizing the important role they can play in baby care by holding the baby close to their body for warmth.”
 
The Australian government’s funding support will enable UNICEF to work with the Papua New Guinea government to strengthen capacity in the hospitals and health facilities that will deliver the care of newborns and mothers, to assess and remove bottlenecks in the delivery of these care services and to empower communities with skills to continue care at home.
 
“UNICEF PNG is very grateful for this funding support that will help the Government of PNG to reduce maternal and neonatal deaths by promoting simple cost effective and life-saving practices that are crucial for mothers and newborns to survive,” said UNICEF PNG Representative, David Mcloughlin.
 
In collaboration with the Papua New Guinea Department of Health, UNICEF will work directly with provincial health authorities/offices, the district authorities, church health services and local non-government organisations to roll out the first round of the program in all provincial hospitals and district facilities. Seven additional districts will roll out community based maternal and newborn care in facilities that deliver more than 50 babies per year.
 
Mr Stuart said he was very proud that UNICEF Australia is overseeing the rollout of the program, beginning 19 September, in Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands.
 
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For more information, please contact:
Brinsley Marlay, UNICEF Australia, 0403 604 182, bmarlay@unicef.org.au