Social autopsy of neonatal mortality suggests needed improvements in maternal and neonatal interventions in Balaka and Salima districts of Malawi

Alain K. Koffi, Tiope Mleme, Humphreys Nsona, Benjamin Banda, Agbessi Amouzou, Henry D. Kalter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background The Every Newborn Action Plan calls for reducing the neonatal mortality rates to fewer than 10 deaths per 1000 live births in all countries by 2035. The current study aims to increase our understanding of the social and modifiable factors that can be addressed or reinforced to improve and accelerate the decline in neonatal mortality in Malawi. Methods The data come from the 2013 Verbal and Social Autopsy (VASA) study that collected data in order to describe the biological causes and the social determinants of deaths of children under 5 years of age in Balaka and Salima districts of Malawi. This paper analyses the social autopsy data of the neonatal deaths and presents results of a review of the coverage of key interventions along the continuum of normal maternal and newborn care and the description of breakdowns in the care provided for neonatal illnesses within the Pathway to Survival framework. Results A total of 320 neonatal deaths were confirmed from the VASA survey. While one antenatal care (ANC) visit was high at 94%, the recommended four ANC visits was much lower at 41% and just 17% of the mothers had their urines tested during the pregnancy. 173 (54%) mothers of the deceased newborns had at least one labor/ delivery complication that began at home. The caregivers of 65% (n = 75) of the 180 newborns that were born at home or born and left a health facility alive perceived them to be severely ill at the onset of their illness, yet only 44% (n = 80) attempted and 36% (n = 65) could reach the first health provider after an average of 91 minutes travel time. Distance, lack of transport and cost emerged as the most important constraints to formal care-seeking during delivery and during the newborn fatal illness. Conclusions This study suggests that maternal and neonatal health organizations and the local government of Malawi should increase the demand for key maternal and child health interventions, including the recommended 4 ANC visits, and ensure urine screening for all pregnant women. Early recognition and referrals of women with obstetric complications and interventions to promote maternal recognition of neonatal illnesses and care-seeking before the child becomes severely ill are also needed to improve newborn survival in Balaka and Salima districts of Malawi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number010416
JournalJournal of global health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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