Climate Change and Newborn Health: A Global Conversation


How much do you really know when it comes to the unacceptable toll of newborn deaths, around the world? According to USAID, in some parts of the world, a mother is more likely to die in childbirth than she is to finish secondary school! What then does this mean for the health and welfare of her newborn child?

Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Check out some of these eye-opening facts we found in a recent article of the Impatient Optimists by Dr. Darmstadt, who leads the Family Health Division of the Gates Foundation:

Did you know that nearly 3 million newborns die each year globally?
Did you know that 99% of these newborns die in low- and middle-income countries?
Did you know that a newborn is 45X times more likely to die in the first month of life, when compared to age 1 month to 5 years?
Did you know that the major causes of newborn death are prematurity, infection, and birth asphyxia when a baby’s brain and other organs do not get enough oxygen before, during or right after birth are?
Did you know that complications of preterm birth are the second leading cause of death in children before their fifth birthday?
And, did you know that the majority of these newborn deaths could be prevented?

For too long these facts and more–what we call the global newborn health agenda–have been off the radar. While the world has seen progress in addressing childhood illnesses in poorer countries, including pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea, we haven’t seen nearly as much progress in tackling newborn deaths, which now account for about 40 percent of the deaths of children under age 5 around the world.

Credit: Shutterstock

Are you wondering how newborn deaths and climate change are connected? A few things for you to think about and to talk about with the kids in your life. We know that different time periods of a woman’s pregnancy are particularly sensitive to the effects of environmental exposure, which can impact newborn survival. Environmental stressors such as air and water contamination, pollution, vector born diseases and food security are all crucial issues for expectant mothers and newborns in a changing climate. As well, the rise of extreme weather events that can cause displacement, long term drought and food security issues, exacerbating climate refugee situations all impact newborn health as well. For more information, the US Environmental Protection Agency has some interesting facts on the impacts of climate change on human health and adaptation.

From April 15-18tth, 2013 there will be a global conversation taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa at the Global Newborn Health Conference. We will look for and are interested in hearing what comes out of conversations and panel discussions at this conference on the linkages between newborn health and climate change.

Credit: Shutterstock

An important fact to keep in mind is that on the ground in many developing countries the ability of local populations to impact our changing climate directly remains very small. The average carbon footprint of most people living in developing countries is around 4 tons a year, while for most of us living in the United States it is around 20 tons! Global climate disruption, climate change, global warming, whatever we label it, is GLOBAL and what we do or do not do in one part of the world can directly impact maternal and newborn health in another. How we live, drive, power our homes and offices and what we eat in the developed world, directly impacts the lives of people living in developing countries. Yet “connecting these dots” seems too diffuse and too disconnected for most of us.

In hopes of helping to “connect these dots,” we are lending our voice and our blog to raise attention to newborn deaths as part of the Global Team of 200. At ClimateMama, we continue to try to help you make the connections between our everyday actions and what these actions can mean to the rest of the world. We need the political will to change policies that will address climate change in a real and serious way; putting a price on carbon and supporting industries that will move us towards a clean, renewable future are key. Not only will these kinds of policies help our children directly but they will help children the world over live longer, healthier lives. But until our political leaders hear and feel pressure from us, they will continue to drag their feet, change things only at the margins, and watch in dysfunctional silence as our march toward the “edge” of the climate cliff continues moving forward at a precarious pace….


Climate Mama

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One Response to Climate Change and Newborn Health: A Global Conversation

  1. Great facts! Great Blog 🙂 Thanks for sharing, I hope soon we read more facts from your blog.. Thanks keep sharing 🙂

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