ETHIOPIA— The Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST360 Alliance), an international coalition of clinical, technological, and public health professionals , has received a big boost with a US$65 million investment.

The NEST360 alliance collaborates with governments to strengthen health systems by providing innovative technology, education, and policy resources.

Funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation, and generous private contributions will be critical in the NEST360 alliance’s efforts to reduce neonatal mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa.

African countries have the greatest rates of mortality among the estimated 2.3 million babies that die each year worldwide, primarily from preventable causes.

Although most births in Africa are in hospitals, over 1.1 million infants die yearly, with 75% from preventable causes due to a lack of life-saving technologies, equipment, and qualified professionals to care preterm babies and newborns in distress.

 The NEST360 alliance effort aims to reduce the region’s high newborn mortality rates to 12 per 1000 live births.

The campaign aims to stop unnecessary infant deaths by 2030, although it is expected that 60 nations would fail to meet the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 3.2.

With African newborns having a nearly 10-fold higher risk of neonatal death than babies born in Europe or the United States, this effort, which combines clinical, biological, and public health knowledge, implements a systems-change approach to optimal infant care.

Speaking during the award ceremony, Dr. Nahya Salim, a clinical paediatric specialist at Tanzania’s Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) and NEST360 co-founder, noted that most approaches to small and sick newborn care have long focused on single interventions, but most newborns will have more than one problem and, therefore, multiple interventions are needed.  

She then said that as a clinician, she has witnessed firsthand the importance of having the correct space, the right devices, adequately trained staff, and locally owned data to ensure every newborn can come, live, and grow.

NEST360 co-founder Rebecca Richards-Kortum, a bioengineering professor at Rice University, emphasizes that enhancing quality for small and unwell infant care in NEST360-implementing countries and beyond necessitates a systems-change approach at all levels of care.

She went on to say that addressing the multiple clinical needs of the individual patient; ensuring the design, availability, and maintenance of appropriate equipment and sufficient clinical and biomedical staff at facilities across a district; and implementing national policies to support overall care are critical.

The alliance’s debut in Ethiopia relies on current national-level efforts called Saving Little Lives, which aim to encourage long-term, country-led transformation.

This next phase, with a target fundraising goal of US$90 million, will focus on five major countries that account for nearly half of all neonatal mortality on the continent.

 In Phase 2, the alliance’s reach will expand to 144 implementing hospitals, with the network expanding to Ethiopia. The NEST360 program aims to initiate long-term reform through engagement with African governments and stakeholders.

This second, five-year phase of the initiative will build on the progress made in Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, and Nigeria during the first phase (2019-2023), when the alliance, in collaboration with the governments, improved the quality of care for approximately 100,000 babies admitted to the 67 hospitals implementing NEST360.

NEST360 is an international collaboration of 22 top institutions and organizations, including 3rd Stone Design, Addis Ababa University – Institute of Technology, Addis Ababa University – School of Public Health,, Aga Khan University, APIN, Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology, Emory University, Hatch Technologies, Hawassa University, Ifakara Health Institute, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, and Kenyatta University.

Other institutions include the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences, Malawi University of Science and Technology, Mekelle University, Northwestern University, Rice360 Institute for Global Health Technologies, University of Ibadan, University of Lagos, University of Lagos – College of Medicine, and the University of Oxford – KEMRI Wellcome Trust.

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