The World Health Organization (WHO) launched its “ First Embrace” campaign in Vietnam on July 14, highlighting simple steps that will save thousands of newborn lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of complications each year from unsafe or outdated practices in newborn care in the country.

The WHO said Vietnam has made great strides in the last two decades to reduce the number of newborn babies dying within the first month of life, reaching the UN Millennium Development Goal target of reducing child mortality.

However, in 2012, over 17,000 babies still died within the first month of life, according to the WHO. For this reason, First Embrace highlights early essential newborn care, or EENC. This package of actions and interventions address the most common causes of newborn death or disease, such as prematurity (being born too soon), low birth weight and severe infection such as pneumonia or diarrhoea.

EENC can be performed in all birth settings without the need for complicated preparations or expensive technology. Early essential newborn care can thus also be applied in district and community health centres in remote or hard to reach areas in Vietnam. These areas experience a disproportionately high number of newborn deaths.

WHO, with support of the Ministry of Health of Vietnam, launches the First Embrace campaign in Vietnam simultaneously at three hospitals this week: Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, The Obstetrics and Pediatrics Hospital in Da Nang, and the National Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital in Hanoi. These three hospitals are early essential newborn care Centres of Excellence in Viet Nam where First Embrace practices are already in use.

WHO supports the development of these Centres of Excellence by providing coaching and training to nurses and doctors, and also by creating an enabling environment for mothers and newborns to receive early newborn care in hospital.

WHO’s First Embrace campaign is part of a broader effort to improve access to and quality of maternal, newborn and child health care services across Vietnam and WHO’s Western Pacific Region.-VNA