Four million new-born babies die each year before 27 days as a result of low weight birth (under 2.5kg).
The incidence of low weight birth annually is around 20 million. 96% of these births occur in developing countries.
Not only is childbirth still imminently dangerous in the developing world, neonatal mortality remains a very real prospect for an incredible number of families. As a means of comparison and perspective, UN/WHO figures show that the number of neonatal deaths per 1000 live births in 2001 in the following countries were:
Afghanistan – 36/1000
Guatemala – 15/1000
India – 32/1000
South Sudan – 38/1000
Uganda – 28/1000
UK – 3/1000
US – 4/1000
Low-weight birth is a result of insufficient nutrition in the mother and often leads to death because such babies are born without the necessary fat to regulate their body temperature. Without external warmth, these babies can die within hours. In more developed countries, this problem is combatted through the use of incubators. However, in countries where this infrastructure and money is not readily available, such facilities do not exist. More to the point, even where these facilities are available, lack of access to an efficient energy source means that machines are left redundant and useless.
Embrace Global have made huge strides towards reversing and stemming the number of neonatal deaths in developing countries as a consequence of low weight birth through an incredible, but simple, innovation – the BabyWrap. This low-cost baby warmer has been designed specifically for areas where access to electricity is highly unreliable. They have developed a wax-like phase change material (the WarmPak) that, when warmed under a heater for 10-15 minutes and inserted into the insulated pouch of the BabyWrap, keeps the baby at a perfect temperature of 37°C for up to six hours. A simple idea but one which is saving thousands, and could potentially save millions, of lives worldwide.
These are being introduced in developing countries in coordination with education programmes that work to offer training, support, education, and advice to new mothers. Moreover, Embrace Global’s sister organization is selling BabyWraps to hospitals and areas that can afford the cost, and using this money to finance the provision of the BabyWrap to those areas that so desperately require them. Plans are also afoot for a WarmPak to be introduced that can be simply heated in boiling water, and this could have an even wider impact for remote and poor communities.
Whenever you despair at the world and sometimes think about the enormous amount that we waste, both in terms of produce and time spent on seemingly unnecessary innovations, remember that there are people in the world always pursuing goals that genuinely change people’s lives. It might just make you feel a little better.