Original Research

Essential newborn care practices in Zambia

Steven Malinga, Malelo Ilukena, Thomas Chirwa, Chitalu M. Chama-Chiliba
Journal of Public Health in Africa | Vol 13, No 2 | a467 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4081/jphia.2022.2078 | © 2024 Steven Malinga, Malelo Ilukena, Thomas Chirwa, Chitalu M. Chama-Chiliba | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 April 2024 | Published: 26 July 2022

About the author(s)

Steven Malinga, World Vision International, Uxbridge, United Kingdom
Malelo Ilukena, World Vision Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia
Thomas Chirwa, World Vision Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia
Chitalu M. Chama-Chiliba, University of Zambia, Institute of Economic and Social Research, Lusaka, Zambia

Full Text:



Neonatal mortality remains high in Zambia and is declining slower than infant and under five mortality. Improved adoption of essential newborn care (ENC) could help mitigate this situation. To determine the adoption of ENC practices in Zambia, cross-sectional data was used to assess ENC practices including baby kept warm, umbilical cord care and breastfeeding. Chi-square was used to assess whether maternal and social demographic factors were related to ENC. Households surveyed were 12,507, which included 5,741 women with children under two years. Findings show that 95.4% of babies were dried immediately after birth, 96.5% wrapped in a cloth/blanket, 76.7% put on mother’s torso and 68.5% head covered (51.6% for all four). Eightyfive-point six percent of baby’s cords were cut with a sharp and clean instrument, 46% cord kept dry and 42.1% cord kept clean (31.2% for all three). Ninety-six-point nine percent of babies were breastfed, 89.3% were initiated within one hour and 93% exclusively breastfed for the first 3 days post-delivery (82% for all three). Babies kept warm were associated with skilled birth attendance (SBA) and province, umbilical cord care with SBA, >4 antenatal care (ANC) visits, marital status and province, and breastfeeding with >4 ANC visits, marital status and province. Early and exclusive breastfeeding is widely practiced. However, appropriate thermal and cord care practices are low. There is need for a scale-up of appropriate newborn care practices in Zambia and SBA could play an important role in this regard.


Essential newborn care; umbilical cord care; breastfeeding; newborn warmth


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