Background In 2015, 5.3 million babies died in the third trimester of pregnancy and first month following birth. Progress in reducing neonatal mortality and stillbirth rates has lagged behind the substantial progress in reducing postneonatal and maternal mortality rates. The benefits to prenatal and neonatal health (PNH) from maternal and child health investments cannot be assumed.
Methods We analysed donor funding for PNH over the period 2003–2013. We used an exhaustive key term search followed by manual review and classification to identify official development assistance and private grant (ODA+) disbursement records in the Countdown to 2015 ODA+ Database.
Results The value of ODA+ mentioning PNH or an activity that would directly benefit PNH increased from $105 million in 2003 to $1465 million in 2013, but this included a 3% decline between 2012 and 2013. Projects exclusively benefitting PNH reached just $6 million in 2013. Records mentioning PNH accounted for 3% of the $2708 million disbursed in 2003 for maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) and increased to 13% of the $9287 million disbursed for MNCH in 2013. In 11 years, only nine records ($6 million) mentioned stillbirth, miscarriage, or the fetus, although the two leading infectious causes of stillbirth were mentioned in records worth $832 million. The USA disbursed the most ODA+ mentioning PNH ($2848 million, 40% of the total) and Unicef disbursed the most ODA+ exclusively benefitting PNH ($18 million, 30%). We found evidence that funding mentioning and exclusively benefitting PNH was targeted to countries with greater economic needs, but the evidence of targeting to health needs was weak and inconsistent.
Conclusions Newborn health rose substantially on the global agenda between 2003 and 2013, but prenatal health received minimal attention in donor funding decisions. Declines in 2013 and persistently low funding exclusively benefitting PNH indicate a need for caution and continued monitoring of donors' support for newborn health.
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