More than a million children die on their first and only day of life, Save The Children reveals

Charity calling on world leaders to train and equip enough skilled health workers to avert tragedy

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The Independent Online

Cradling a newborn child is meant to be the happiest moment in any parent’s life. But for more than a million mothers and fathers, this joy will be short lived. According to Save The Children, more than one million babies die each year on their first and only day of life.

The first 24 hours of a child’s life are the most dangerous, yet 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 Save the Children report found an additional 1.2 million babies are stillborn each year, their heartbeats stopping during labour because of childbirth complications, maternal infections and hypertension. This report warns that newborn deaths now account for nearly half of all under-five deaths.

Each year 40 million women give birth without trained help. In Ethiopia only 10% 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 DRC or the Central African Republic 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.

Save the Children is calling on world leaders to train and equip enough skilled health workers to make sure no baby is born without proper help, and removing fees for all pregnancy and birth services.

Justin Forsyth, Chief Executive of Save the Children said: “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 labour to find trained help, all too often ending in tragedy.

She’ll live to see another day – but one million babies do not

“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.“

Justin Forsyth 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.”