About 3.1 million newborns die every year across the global while infection causes more than one third of these deaths, medical experts revealed.

One of the most common causes of newborn infection is unhygienic practices related to the umbilical cord stump,” they said during a meeting of AJK Health Services Steering Committee held in Muzaffarabad late Saturday.

The meeting was chaired by Member of Legislative Assembly Miss Sadaf Sheikh and attended by Dr Sardar Mehmood Ahmed, Programme Manager of Mercy Corps Pakistan Shoiab Ahmed Shahzad and Provincial Advocacy Coordinator AJK Dr Akhlaq Barlas.

The participants unanimously passed a resolution in favour of registration of the license for 7.1% Chlorhexidine digluconate delivering 4% active Chlorhexidine. The participants also re-confirmed the decision and the resolution passed at the National Advocacy Workshop held on 8th August 2014 in Islamabad.  “This is the lifesaving drug and its early local production will save hundreds and thousands of newborns who die each day,” the participants said.

They added that in unhygienic conditions, the umbilical cord stump may be exposed to bacteria from the instrument used to cut the cord, the hands of the caregiver, the mother, or other environmental factors. In such cases, local cord infection may develop into a potentially life threatening systemic infection, they said. “Some cultures intentionally expose the cord to pathogens/bacteria carrying substances such as mud, ash, or dung which are traditionally thought to reduce the time until the cord falls off, but often cause infection. However, these infections can be easily prevented by evidence-based, and low cost interventions,” they underlined.

“Chlorhexidine, a temperature tolerant low-cost drug, can reduce newborn mortality rates by up to 30pc, depending on the context, and can be administered by any healthcare provider or even family members,” they concluded.