In resource-restricted regions, respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) data are often underreported, making the determination of effective interventions and their outcome difficult. The combination of oxygen, nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and surfactant therapy has the potential to prevent 42% of RDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, despite the financial implications. This article provides a brief overview on the status of RDS management, mainly nasal CPAP and surfactant therapy in very-low-birth-weight infants, in resource-restricted regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Data from the public health sector, as compared to the private health sector, of the Western Cape province, South Africa, are used to illustrate what RDS management strategies are able to accomplish in a resource-restricted region. Upscaling of all components (antenatal care, antenatal corticosteroids, prevention of hypothermia and RDS management strategies) are required to decrease premature infant mortality rates in resource-restricted areas.