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New partnership to boost maternal and newborn health in East and Southern Africa

The five-year programme, announced on Tuesday, aims to improve maternal and newborn health in some of the communities with the highest mortality rates in Eastern and Southern Africa. 

It will start in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Kenya, and later expand to other countries in the region. 

“Investing in the health of women and children is a smart investment”, said Mohamed M. Malick Fall, the Regional Director for UNICEF. 

“Indeed, investing in the health of the poorest children and communities saves nearly twice as many lives as equivalent investments.” 

‘Alarming’ mortality rates 

Although the world has witnessed very promising progress in maternal and neonatal health over the past decades, maternal and newborn mortality rates in the Eastern and Southern Africa region remain alarming, according to UNICEF. 

In 2017, roughly 70,000 women there died due to complications during pregnancy and birth, while in 2019, more than 440,000 newborns died in the first 28 days after birth.  

“Our new partnership with Laerdal Global Health will bring investment, research and innovation to help improve the delivery of quality health services”, said Mr. Fall.  

“Additionally, the partnership will seek new solutions to avert preventative maternal and newborn deaths.” 

Scaling-up to save lives 

Together with governments, UNICEF and Laerdal Global Health will provide training for 10,000 health workers, focusing on safe pregnancy and births, by 2025.  

The partners will implement the ‘Helping Mothers Survive and Helping Babies Survive’ training programmes, which are designed to reduce maternal and newborn mortality in low-resource settings. 

The trainings are based on simulation methodology and will equip health professionals with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to succeed, said UNICEF.  They also have a “refresher component”, thus ensuring long-term and sustainable capacity building. 

UNICEF will contribute lifesaving equipment for newborns and training of health workers, while Laerdal Global Health will provide educational materials and simulators through the company’s ‘Buy One, Gift One’ scheme for customers in high-income countries. 

In 2012, Laerdal Medical established a ‘Buy One, Gift One’ initiative, “where birth simulators sold in high-income countries support training programmes in low-resource settings”, said Tore Laerdal, Chairman for Laerdal. 

“We look forward to our cooperation with UNICEF where we will use a combination of on-site and remote learning solutions to contribute to scaling-up more efficient training modules that can save lives.”

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