Aim: To determine which interventions would have the greatest impact on reducing neonatal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012.
Methods: We used MANDATE, a mathematical model, to evaluate scenarios for the impact of available interventions on neonatal deaths from primary causes, including: (i) for birth asphyxia - obstetric care preventing intrapartum asphyxia, newborn resuscitation and treatment of asphyxiated infants; (ii) for preterm birth - corticosteroids, oxygen, continuous positive air pressure and surfactant; and, (iii) for serious newborn infection - clean delivery, chlorhexidine cord care and antibiotics.
Results: Reductions in infection-related mortality have occurred. Between 80 and 90% of deaths currently occurring from infections and asphyxia can be averted from available interventions, as can 58% of mortality from preterm birth. More than 200 000 neonatal deaths can each be averted from asphyxia, preterm birth and infections. Using available interventions, more than 80% of the neonatal deaths occurring today could be prevented in sub-Saharan Africa.
Conclusion: Reducing neonatal deaths from asphyxia require improvements in infrastructure and obstetric care to manage maternal conditions such as obstructed labour and preeclampsia. Reducing deaths from preterm birth would also necessitate improved infrastructure and training for preterm infant care. Reducing infection-related mortality requires less infrastructure and lower-level providers.