Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

WHO/UNICEF Joint Statement on home-based care of newborns

8 July 2009

Every year, around 3.7 million babies die during their first four weeks of life. Most of these newborns are born in developing countries and most die at home. Up to two-thirds of these deaths can be prevented if mothers and newborns receive known, effective interventions.

Studies have shown that interventions delivered to newborn babies in their homes can prevent 30–60% of deaths in high mortality settings under controlled conditions. On the strength of this evidence, WHO and UNICEF now recommend a series of home visits in the baby’s first week of life to improve newborn survival.

A WHO/UNICEF Joint Statement on "Home visits for the newborn child: a strategy to improve survival" was presented to Ministers of Finance and Health at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Annual Ministerial Review meeting in Geneva in July 2009.

The Statement recommends that home visits occur on days one and three of a newborn's life, and if possible, a third visit should take place before the end of the first week of life (day seven). During home visits, skilled health workers should perform the following measures:

  • promote and support early (within the first hour after birth) and exclusive breastfeeding;
  • help to keep the newborn warm (promoting skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant);
  • promote hygienic umbilical cord and skin care;
  • assess the baby for signs of serious health problems, and advise families to seek prompt medical care if necessary (danger signs include feeding problems, or if the newborn has reduced activity, difficult breathing, a fever, fits or convulsions, or feels cold);
  • encourage birth registration and timely vaccination according to national schedules; and
  • identify and support newborns that need additional care (e.g. those that are low-birth-weight, sick or have an HIV-infected mother).