Care of the newborn: Community perceptions and health seeking behavior

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



Background: Every year, 120,000 newborns die in Ethiopia. In 2005 a national Safe Motherhood Community-Based Survey was carried out on behalf of the Family Health Department to explore community practices surrounding newborn health and care seeking behavior. Objective: To explore and understand health seeking behavior, and identify the positive practices surrounding care of the newborn. Methods: In-depth interviews and focus group discussions regarding newborn care practices were conducted with mothers, older women, men with young children, health providers, religious leaders and elders across Ethiopia's 11 regions. Important findings: Tradition recommends mothers and their newborns to stay at home for 40 days. The principle behind the practice, facilitates the period of rest and repair, establishes breastfeeding and is justified on the grounds that the mother and newborn are vulnerable to malevolent spirits. Perceptions of the causes of newborn mortality and morbidity are consistent with those relating to biomedical causes. Many complained of lack of accessible health care that in event of emergencies. Therefore they have to rely on traditional medicine as it is easily accessed, readily acceptable. Conclusions: When families seek care for their newborns, remedies from traditional healers are often preferred to skilled health workers because of cultural and religious beliefs, poor access to health facilities, (including distance and terrain) and financial barriers.