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UK Politics

Britain's leading doctors and midwives urge David Cameron to tackle the one million babies who die on their first day of life each year


The leader of Britain’s midwives and some of the other most senior figures in the fields of childbirth and reproductive medicine have written to David Cameron urging him to commit to ending the global scandal that leads to the annual death of one million babies on their first day of life.

In a letter seen by The Independent, the heads of three Royal Colleges and 50 other professionals are calling on the Prime Minister to work with international leaders to ensure that all women have access to healthcare during labour.

“As Prime Minister, you have the power to lead a global breakthrough in tackling this crisis. As a father, you can understand the importance of ending the horror of newborn babies dying unnecessarily, for lack of a skilled midwife,” the letter says.

 “Use your global influence to persuade world leaders, private sector chiefs and key donors to make the same commitment,” it adds.

A landmark study of global infant mortality published yesterday by Save the Children found that one million children each year die within 24 hours of birth. It is estimated that the annual death toll could be reduced by half through free basic healthcare and midwifery provision as most of these babies die as a result of treatable birth complications including prolonged labour and infection.

It is estimated that 40 million women receive no trained support during their labour whilst two million mothers said they last gave birth completely alone.

The letter signed by Professor Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, Dr Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr David Richmond, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Dr Chris Wilkinson, president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare notes the “amazing progress” in improving survival chances among children in the developing world over the past decades.

But experts fear that much vaunted UN Millennium Development goals will not be achieved unless the number of neonatal deaths is tackled. In total 2.9 million children died last year before they had lived for a month.

In a statement the Department for International Development said that since 2011 support from the UK had meant that 1.6 million babies were delivered by trained health workers.

Save the Children is urging governments, philanthropists and the global health care industry to sign up to a five-point “newborn promise” which could result in saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of babies.

Chief executive Justin Forysth said in the UK every expectant mother has access to maternity care.

“It’s a scandal that should be stopped and is possible with global action. The Royal Colleges alongside the 50 UK health workers who signed the letter should be proud of their support on this issue,” he said.