He’ll live to see another day – but one million babies do not, Save The Children study says

The first 24 hours of a baby’s life are the most dangerous. As Jonathan Brown discovers, new work by Save the Children identifies what can – and must – be done

A million children each year die on the first and only day of their lives, often after their mothers have been left to give birth alone and unaided in the world’s poorest and most remote regions, according to a major new study of global infant mortality.

Urgent action is desperately needed to end the “heartbreaking and unacceptable” toll which it is estimated could be reduced by half through free basic healthcare and midwifery provision.

Most of these babies die within 24 hours as a result of birth complications including prolonged labour and infection, which are treatable provided help is readily at hand.

But the research by Save the Children estimates that 40 million women receive no trained support during their labour. Two million mothers said they last gave birth completely alone.

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children said the figures were “criminal” and the solutions well known. “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 labour to find trained help, all too often ending in tragedy,” he said.

 

In addition to the one million birthday deaths, 1.2 million babies succumb during labour, the report found. In 2012, 2.9 million deaths occurred within the first four weeks of life, accounting for two in five child deaths.

Despite rapid international progress, which has seen child mortality halved in the past decade, 18,000 under-fives still die each year, mostly from preventable diseases.

Reducing early life and still births in labour is seen as crucial to meeting UN Millennium Development goal targets by 2015. But time is running out and it is feared that progress towards achieving the targets has stalled.

The charity is now urging politicians, philanthropists and those in the global healthcare and pharmaceutical industries to commit to a five- point “newborn promise”.

The project would see governments promise to tackle the earliest neonatal deaths and to ensure that every birth is attended by a trained health worker by 2025.

More than a million children die on their first and only day of life

Save the Children wants developing countries to increase health expenditure to the World Health Organisation minimum of £40 per person and remove all fees for maternity and newborn care.

Pharmaceutical companies are also being urged to develop new products and to make them available to the world’s poorest families.

Experts say there are a number of simple techniques which could rapidly reduce the death toll. Injections of corticosteroids given to a mother going into premature labour can help a baby’s lungs to develop, giving a greater chance of survival.

Techniques such as kangaroo care in which infants are kept warm through skin-to-skin contact can keep newborns alive in the absence of incubators. An antiseptic gel applied to the cut umbilical cord will also greatly reduce incidence of fatal infection.

Among those factors causing infant first-day deaths were babies being born prematurely or being of low birth weight, the report entitled Ending Newborn Deaths found.

Mothers had typically received poor care and nutrition during their pregnancy.

Children in Sierra Leone experienced the greatest danger on their day of birth with 19 babies in 1,000 dying within the first 24 hours. Following the conclusion of the civil war only one in four mothers had skilled medical attendance during childbirth.

In 2010 the government removed fees for pregnant and lactating women and increased the amount of money it spent on neonatal care. In 2012, six out of 10 births were attended by a trained health worker.

The report noted that much progress had been made in the reduction of infant deaths. But it concluded: “The scale and the inequality of newborn mortality have to be addressed. The incremental changes that we currently see cannot end all preventable child and maternal deaths within an acceptable time frame.”

A spokesman for the Department for International Development welcomed the report. “Ensuring that more babies are born safely and with proper medical care is a central part of our work,” he said. “Since 2011 support from the UK has meant that 1.6 million babies were delivered by trained health workers.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions