Infant Mortality: Obijackson Women And Children’s Hospital Director Calls For National Respiratory Support Plan


Participants at the first Obijackson Women and Children Hospital (OWCH) funded Newborn Respiratory Support Workshop have called for the adoption of a national neonatal respiratory support policy and plan in Nigeria as part of efforts to reduce newborn deaths. A workshop held earlier in April concluded that the proposed respiratory policy would reduce newborn deaths in the South-East and South-South regions of the country. The country has an infant mortality rate of 59.1 deaths per 1000 live births before the age of one and over 35 deaths per 1000 live births for newborns.

Dr. Ikechukwu Okonkwo, the OWCH Head of Hospital Services, the lead knowledge expert at the workshop, said that most newborn deaths are from preventable causes. He explained that improving the respiratory support for most vulnerable population will significantly impact the three leading causes of neonatal and infant death – preterm birth, intra partum related events (formerly known as perinatal asphyxia) and infections which are all accompanied by various degrees of breathing difficulties.

Dr. Okonkwo said that the newborn respiratory support workshop had been conceptualised in a collaboration with national and international partners to train medical practitioners on how to save babies’ lives. He added that, unfortunately, only one out of every three babies are currently being delivered in a healthcare facility, which greatly decreases the survival chances of both the mother and newborn. He also said that the available data and models show that for any country to have less than 35 deaths per 1000 births, a national policy on newborn respiratory support is key.

“These three major causes of neonatal mortality accounting for 85 per cent of deaths were covered extensively in this comprehensive workshop. We had doctors and nurses to learn new ways to save babies, and afterwards they will teach others in their hospitals and medical facilities on how to care for the newborn all with the goal of reducing neonatal mortality.”

The workshop featured capacity building and skills acquisition in providing respiratory support to newborns and was subsidised by the Obijackson Foundation, funded by Dr. Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi whose drive to support the reduction of neonatal death in the country has resulted in significantly improved health outcomes for newborns cared for at OWCH.

Dr. Chinelo Madueze, the Neonatologist and Pediatrician at OWCH, reemphasised that a lot of newborn deaths are caused due to intra-partum related events (formerly known as perinatal asphyxia), which results in respiratory failure, a situation in which a newborn can neither breathe nor cry at birth. She said the aim of the training was to better equip health care practitioners in evidence-based neonatal resuscitation, especially in low resources centres. This will result in skilled attendants that are available and ready to provide expert care to all babies at the time of birth and assist them in breathing.

“Ventilation of the lungs is the most important thing to do when babies are born. Obstetricians and other health care professionals present during childbirth must be able to help all newborn babies who do not cry or breathe at birth to breathe within one minute of life to prevent irreversible brain damage and death.”