When at the Save the Children Bloggers Conference earlier this month there was one particular star guest that I was very keen to hear from – Gemma Raby, one of the midwives from the fantastic Channel 4 series One Born Every Minute. Gemma has been working with Save the Children for a while now and as part of this work last year went out to Liberia to see the work done by midwives there and the difference that Save the Children was making for babies and their mothers.
I have two children. Both born in the hospitals of my choice and both times I was given excellent care by the NHS and their midwives and doctors. It's fair to say that it's quite possible that one of my children wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for the care I received. I was lucky though. Not all women and their babies are that fortunate. They may have to give birth completely alone. They may having to give birth without a properly trained midwife with them. If they do have a midwife with them it's possible that she (and it normally is a she) will not have all the equipment that she needs. Giving birth can be a scary enough experience even when surrounded by a top medical team. Imagine how it feels if you were on your own, possibly out in the bush, miles from help.
Photo credit: Anna Kari/Save the Children
Midwife Gemma Raby, from the hit television show "One Born Every Minute" holds baby Gemma, at the C.H. Rennie Hospital in Liberia. The baby's mother, Joan Quewon, named her daughter after the UK midwife, who assisted with the delivery, which was done by caesarian section.
It's a staggering and sobering fact that around the world 2.9 million babies a year die within their first month of life. That's nearly half of all under-5 deaths. What makes this figure particularly hard to comprehend is that many of these deaths are preventable. If these mothers had a trained and properly equipped midwife with them to help these 2.9 million babies may not have died. Even things that we may take for granted like antiseptics and antibiotics could save lives.
Gemma spoke at length about her experiences working alongside midwives in Liberia and the way her voice broke when recounting some of the stories made it clear just how much Save the Children's help is needed around the world. There were tales of women in labour having to walk for days to get to their nearest medical help – and then getting there to find it closed. Women who had given birth alone in the bush and then lost babies through not being able to give them the help that they needed immediately after birth. Women who had complications in pregnancy and labour that were not spotted as they didn't get to see a midwife at all.
Photo credit: Anna Kari/Save the Children
One Born Every Minute midwife Gemma Raby meets Jenneh, 15 with her newborn Yealon Yeagbo.
There were also stories about the traditional village midwives that still exist across Africa. Practices that I had always assumed had died out are still there and for some mothers this is the only support they get in childbirth. These women all mean well, but they are not medically trained and some of the things they do to try to help are actually harmful to the women they are looking after.
All this is happening in 2014. Babies are dying due to a lack of training and equipment. Training and equipment which are not expensive or hard to provide. These are babies who deserve to have a future in front of them.
Today Save the Children are launching their Ending Newborn Deaths campaign and they are asking you to help. In 2014 countries and institutions around the world will be sitting down to agree the Every Newborn Action Plan and we want to ensure that world leaders take action on this. Save the Children have set out two very clear things that they want to achieve:
- Save the lives of 2 million newborn babies a year
- Ensure that every baby is born with the support of a trained and equipped midwife
So, how can you help?
Firstly by signing the Save the Children First Day petition to ask David Cameron to put a global plan into action in 2014 to ensure that ever baby is born with the life-saving help of a trained and equipped midwife. We are also asking him to use his influence on the world stage to get other leaders to do the same.
And secondly by making a donation to Save the Children's Newborns campaign. A donation of just £3, the same as a cup of coffee from one of the high street chains, would save 10 newborn lives by buying 10 tubes of antiseptic cream. All you need to do is text the word COFFEE to 70090.
Please help Save the Children to make a difference and to reduce the newborn death rate.