Nepal's Navel Glazers

A community of health volunteers, armed with a tube and a lot of heart, to save the lives of newborns delivered at home.

Nepal's Navel Glazers

In Nepal, one in 25 infants dies before his or her first birthday. Nearly two-thirds of babies are born at home, often in unhygienic conditions. Following generations of tradition, mothers rub oil, tumeric or even cow dung on the freshly cut umbilical stump for “healing.” Believing they are caring for their babies, they actually endanger their lives.

Many people thought that the only solution was heavy investment in high-tech hospital systems. But through a simple intervention - chlorhexidine cord cleansing - reduced the risk of newborn death by up to a third. With the support of USAID and its partner, JSI, researchers at Johns Hopkins University designed trials for the antiseptic chlorhexidine, a treatment for cut umbilical cords which cut infant mortality in Nepal by up to a third for pennies per dose.

Today, the 50,000-strong government health worker cadre known as Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) is helping turn the tide, saving newborns from potentially life-threatening infections through the application of a simple intervention—chlorhexidine; efforts are currently underway to introduce chlorhexidine to 15 other countries.


  • United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

    Funding Agencies
    United States | Staff size: Unknown

    USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.

    U.S. foreign assistance has...

  • John Snow, Inc. (JSI)

    Development Consulting
    United States | Staff size: 1001-5000

    John Snow, Inc., and the nonprofit JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., are public health management consulting and research organizations dedicated to improving the health of...

  • John Hopkins University

    United States | Staff size: 10,000+

    The Johns Hopkins University is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, the university was named after its first benefactor, the American entrepreneur,...

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Key Information

LocationNepal, South Asia
  • Start Date 2007
  • End Date 2012
  • Sectors