Information to Save Lives

A new report from the UN says thousands of
children die soon after birth, deaths that are preventable with inexpensive

Up to half
a million
African babies die
on the day
they are born
— most at home
and uncounted.

Where mothers have information and basic health care, the risk of losing their newborn in the first days after birth are significantly reduced, according to a new report released by the World Health Organization. Never the less, 1.6 million children in Africa die within 28 days of birth the report says.

Community-based health programs which train midwives and community health workers to deliver health information and provide basic services can make a substantial difference reducing these deaths, the report says.

The WHO cites Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Eritrea, Madasgascar and Burkina Faso as nations that have made maternal health care a priority and have reduced infant death as a result.

The report also emphasizes the disparities in access to health care. Liberia has the world’s highest newborn mortality rate at 66 deaths per 1,000 births compared to less than 2 deaths per 1,000 births in Japan.

A goal of United Methodist Communications, for which I work, is to provide the communications training, equipment and other tools to organize communities to deliver information to improve quality of life. Communication is the foundation for providing better health information and community organization. Trained communicators who can assist community health workers to develop messages and methods to deliver better health information have been coupled with relatively inexpensive equipment for communications centers in various countries in Africa.

We are also exploring funding for community radio stations that can deliver information to wider audiences. Small footprint radio stations assist communities to participate in a dialogue with themselves for better health, economic development, agricultural practices and other important information. Training has been completed and equipment purchased to launch a station in Liberia, the country noted in the report leading in newborn deaths.

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