Child and adolescent health and development

World Birth Defects Day — March 3, 2016

The importance of World Birth Defects Day on March 3 is accentuated as the world’s attention has turned to Zika virus and its strongly suspected causal relationship with clusters of microcephaly and other abnormalities.

Recognizing the need for increased surveillance WHO-SEARO has established an online new-born and birth defect (NBBD) surveillance network in collaboration with CDC-USA. This network has been operating in 7 countries in the South –East Asia region, since 2014, with 110 hospitals contributing to generating data and gathering evidence on the prevalence of birth defects.

Assessment of Microcephaly in context of Zika Virus

What is microcephaly?
Microcephaly is a birth defect where the head size of the baby is much smaller than other babies of the same age and sex. This is often accompanied by other anomalies such as intellectual disability in addition to higher risk for mortality/morbidity at birth and other physical (visual, hearing) and mental disabilities as the babies grow older. The severity of microcephaly itself ranges from mild to severe. Microcephaly is a rare birth defect which has gained a lot of importance due to suspected associations with Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy.

New-born and Birth Defects (NBBD) Surveillance Initiative

In 2014, WHO-SEARO created an online system of newborn-birth defects (SEAR-NBBD) database. The system was designed to support data management for newborn health, birth defects and stillbirths. Standardized forms for data collection are available online for submission to the system. WHO-SEARO has offered the system for the countries to develop capacity in an online database that could be subsequently migrated to national systems when ready.

About 150 hospitals from 8 countries are currently registered as a part of the NBBD Surveillance network and 110 hospitals from 7 countries are reporting on data on birth defects since 2014.

Call to end preventable newborn, child and maternal mortality in South-East Asia Region

Regional H4+ Joint Statement for ending preventable newborn, child and maternal mortality was released by the Regional Directors of the six H4+ agencies: WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank, UNAIDS and UN WOMEN in Dec 2015.
This regional collaborative mechanism will play an important role during the implementation of the UNSG’s Global Strategy for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health during the SDG phase in Member States of South-East Asia Region; directly contributing to target 17 ‘Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development’ under the SDG-3

Dr Neena Raina
Regional Adviser, Child and Adolescent Health
World Health Organization - SEARO
IP Estate, Mahatma Gandhi Marg, New Delhi, 110 002 India
Tel : +91 11 2337 0804 Ext: 26315 Fax : +91 11 2337 8510
Email :