—Ending newborn deaths:
In supporting the development of global plan to reduce newborn deaths, especially in Africa, a Non Governmental Organization, Save the Children, plans for a two-thirds reduction in newborn deaths. AJUMA EDWINA OGIRI writes
The first 24 hours of a child’s life are the most dangerous, with more than one million babies dying each year on their first and only day of life, according to new research published by Save the Children.
The new report, “Ending Newborn Deaths,” shows one half of first day deaths around the world could be prevented if the mother and baby had access to free health care and a skilled midwife.
The children’s aid agency says the deaths happen because of premature birth and complications during birth, such as prolonged labor, pre-eclampsia and infection, which can be avoided if quality health experts are present.
The research also found an additional 1.2 million babies are stillborn each year, their heartbeats stopping during labor because of childbirth complications, maternal infections and hypertension.
In a bid to save millions of newborn lives, Save the Children has called on world leaders to commit in 2014 to a blueprint for change – The Five Point Newborn Promise – which focuses on training and equipping enough skilled health workers to make sure no baby is born without proper help, and removing fees for all pregnancy and birth services.
The world has made amazing progress in reducing child mortality during the past decade – nearly halved from 12 million to 6.6 million – thanks to global political action on immunization, treatment of pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria, family planning and nutrition.
But this progress could stall without urgent action to tackle scandalously high numbers of newborns dying. This report warns that newborn deaths now account for nearly half of all under-five deaths.
Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children, said:
“The first day of a child’s life is the most dangerous, and too many mothers give birth alone on the floor of their home or in the bush without any life-saving help. We hear horror stories of mothers walking for hours during labor to find trained help, all too often ending in tragedy.
“It’s criminal that many of these deaths could be averted simply if there was someone on hand to make sure the birth took place safely and who knew what to do in a crisis.”
Each year, 40 million women give birth without trained help. In Ethiopia, only 10 percent of births have skilled help whereas in some areas of rural Afghanistan there is just one midwife for 10,000 people.
In countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or the Central African Republic (CAR), some mothers have to pay for emergency maternal care, often costing as much as their monthly food bill. There have even been reports of mothers being kept under jail-like conditions for months until they have been able to pay for their emergency caesarean.
Carolyn Miles added: “These new statistics reveal – for the first time ever – the true scale of the newborn crisis. The solutions are well-known but need greater political will to give babies a fighting chance of reaching their second day of life. Without targeted action now, progress made in cutting child mortality through vaccines and tackling malnutrition will stall.”
Save the Children is calling on world leaders, philanthropists and the private sector to meet and commit to the Five Point Newborn Promise in 2014:
• Issue a defining and accountable declaration to end all preventable newborn mortality, saving 2 million newborn lives a year and stopping the 1.2 million stillbirths during labor
• Ensure that by 2025 every birth is attended by trained and equipped health workers who can deliver essential newborn health interventions
• Increase expenditure on health to at least the WHO minimum of US$60 per person
• To pay for the training, equipping and support of health workers, and remove user fees for all maternal, newborn and child health services, including emergency obstetric care
• The private sector, including pharmaceutical companies, should help address unmet needs by developing innovative solutions and increasing availability for the poorest to new and existing products for maternal, newborn and child health.