While significant progress has been made in reducing preschool child mortality in developing countries over the past 20 years, much less progress has been made in reducing neonatal mortality and morbidity. Neonatal mortality rates are high in Nepal; a significant proportion of which are due to sepsis. In addition, the vast majority of women deliver babies at home without a skilled birth attendant and early neonatal care is routinely used in rural areas. Previous hospital-based research in Malawi suggested that newborn cleansing with a dilute chlorhexidine solution could reduce early infant mortality. This project evaluates the use of a simple intervention at the community level and the impact on neonatal mortality.
Comparisons: Two nested community-based randomized trials are being conducted. The first compares the neonatal mortality rates between newborn infants randomized to receive a whole body skin cleansing soon after birth with baby wipes impregnated with 0.25% chlorhexidine compared with newborns cleaned with baby wipes with a placebo solution. The second trial compares the rates of umbilical cord infections among children assigned to three groups:
- education of the mother on clean cord care alone;
- education of the mother plus routine washing of the cord and stump with soap and water solution for the first 10 days of life; -OR-
- education of the mother plus routine washing of the cord and stump with a 4% chlorhexidine solution.
Enrolled infants are visited on a regular basis during the first month of life to record vital status and grade the cord for signs of infection.