The Despairing Numbers Representing Infant Mortality
Looking back at the events leading up to the birth of my daughter it was a foreshadowing of the type of child Maddilyn would be. For starters, she arrived 3 days after her due date. But once she decided to come it happened quickly and not without flair.
I awoke at 4am on the morning of April 17th to pains in my lower back. Thinking I was experiencing back labor we grabbed our packed bags and headed to the hospital. But as it turned out, I was not in labor. I had a raging urinary tract infection.The plan was to administer antibiotics and send me home.
Little did we know, we would not be going home that day. By the time my doctor arrived at 9am I truly was in labor and dilated to a four. When 3pm rolled around I had been in labor for 6 hours and finally, my precious baby decided to begin making her way into the world. But lack of sleep and no pain medication were taking it’s toll. Every push required a mountain of effort from a well that was quickly drying. Then it happened. My daughter became stuck. It was during this time that I was glad to be surrounded by a team of doctors working because she did not come easily or quietly.
He gasped. She squalled. I cried.
She came into this world eyes wide open. She was a happy, healthy 7lbs 13oz and 21.5 inches long. As the doctor took her from me to be weighed and measured and tested, her daddy followed closely, unable to take his eyes off her. Then it was a whirl wind of family and photographs. And as my husband and I stared wordlessly at our baby girl we were blissfully unaware of a heartbreaking plight half a world away.
According to a recent report by Save the Children, each year there are over 40 million mothers across the world who give birth without a midwife or other trained and equipped health worker. Two million of these women gave birth completely alone. Alone because they could not afford health care. Alone because there was not a qualified person within miles. Sadly, it is only half of a double edged sword. Many of the women least likely to be able to get life-saving help when they give birth are those who are most at risk of losing their babies – women from the poorest communities, from rural areas, from a minority ethnic group or with little education.
These are numbers that rip my heart out.
The number of babies who did not survive their first – and only – day of life in 2012.
The number of babies who died within 28 days of being born in 2012. The number of deaths in this newborn period is four times higher in Africa than it is in Europe.
The number of children who died before their fifth birthday in 2012, most from preventable causes.
And these are the numbers that give me hope.
The number of newborn babies who could be saved each year if we end preventable newborn mortality.
Universal coverage of skilled qualified birth attendance could be achieved by 2025 if we double the current rate of progress. if the rate doesn’t increase, this won’t be achieved until 2043.
The solution needs specific and urgent attention. The key way to stop newborn deaths is to ensure that essential care is provided around labour, delivery and immediately afterwards when the risks are greatest. That means having a skilled, well-equipped birth attendant available to assist women and newborns during delivery. Skilled care during labour could reduce the number of stillbirths during labour by 45% and prevent 43% of newborn deaths.
For the first time ever, countries and institutions around the world will sit down to agree an ‘Every Newborn Action Plan’, an agreement to tackle this deplorable problem of lack of attention to babies in their first days of life. Save the Children is working to ensure that this plan is ambitious and robust enough to end all preventable newborn deaths as well as tackle stillbirths during labor.
Learn more and support the #FirstDay movement at SavetheChildren.org/newborns.