KATHMANDU, Jan 9: Chlorhexidine Digluconate (CHX), a low-cost antiseptic lotion used for reducing infections in newborn babies, has won USAID´s science and technology prize for 2013.
The prize recognizes excellence in the use of science, technology and innovation to solve developmental challenges. ]break]
After observing that three out of five babies in Nepal are born at home and women follow traditional birthing methods which involve the application of turmeric, mustard oil paste and even cow dung or vermillion powder to the newborn´s fresh umbilical stump, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended ´dry care´ of the umbilical cord stump.
This means ensuring that the remaining part of the umbilical cord remains dry and clean.
In 2011, USAID in cooperation with the National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, supported clinical trials of CHX, first in liquid form and then as a gel. The pioneering research project found in trials that applying a single dose of gel containing 4 percent CHX to the umbilical cord stump reduced infant mortality by a staggering 34 percent.
Beth Dunford, USAID mission director, explained in a press statement, “Working closely with the Ministry of Health and Population, community-level health volunteers and other partners, USAID supported the expansion of this pilot and endorsement of Chlorhexidine as part of essential newborn care policy. The scale-up plan, currently being implemented, aims to bring Chlorhexidine to newborns in over three-fourth of Nepal´s districts by 2014.”
“Nepal is the first country in the world to begin extensive use of the antiseptic and it has been widely accepted,” said Dr. Leela Khanal, project manager of the Chlorhexidine Navi Care program. She attributes this acceptance to vigorous public outreach and education, along with a committed network of 50,000 trained Female Community Health Volunteers.
As part of an innovative USAID partnership with the private sector, the Nepali pharmaceutical manufacturer Lomus Pharmaceuticals stepped in with an early interest in the CHX pilot program and is now exporting the gel tubes to Nigeria, After learning of the success in Nepal, Nigeria is planning its own trials