Annette Brooke MP writes… This Mothering Sunday let’s commit to making preventable newborn deaths a thing of the past

New BornLike many mothers and grandmothers in my constituency and around the UK, I’m looking forward to Mother’s Day on Sunday. Not just because it’s welcome time spent with the family, but also because it reminds me of the years of joy I’ve had watching my children and now my grand-daughter grow up.

It is however, a sad time for many in this country who have suffered bereavements. And we also think of the millions of mothers around the world who have not had the chance to watch their children grow up.

In the last decade, across the world, incredible progress has been made in tackling child mortality thanks to global political action on immunisation, family planning and nutrition.

Since 1990, the number of children who die every year before the age of five has almost halved – from 12.6 million to 6.6 million. UK aid is vaccinating one child every two seconds, while over 50 million more children have been enrolled in school in the last decade. All achievements to be very proud of.

Liberal Democrats can be proud that this Government has been the one to deliver on the 40-year old promise to commit 0.7% GNI to overseas aid so that this lifesaving work can continue.

And it’s far from being over. As Save the Children explains in its latest report, one million babies do not survive their first – and only – day of life.

These are preventable deaths, all individual tragedies that have happened because there wasn’t a midwife or trained healthworker present, because the clinic was too far away, or because the family was expected to pay fees they could never afford.

Take countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone and Somalia, three of the poorest countries in the world, where there are fewer than two doctors, nurses or midwives per 10,000 people.

In fact, the global shortage of midwives, nurses and doctors is estimated at 7.2 million.

In the twenty-first century, I’m struggling to understand why the world is in this situation.

That’s why I’m supporting Save the Children’s call for world leaders to come together in 2014 and commit to a ‘Five-point Newborn Promise’ to save two million lives a year and put an end to the scandal of preventable newborn deaths.

Change is already on the way. In Bangladesh, the widespread deployment of community healthworkers – mainly women – has helped with scaling up interventions such as family planning, immunisation and TB treatment, all interventions which save lives. But still, even with these encouraging advancements, in many resource-poor and rural settings it is more likely to be a general healthworker who responds to the needs of a whole community. In Bangladesh, only one third of births are attended by a skilled healthworker with midwifery and newborn care skills.

The birth of a baby is a time for celebration, but for millions of families around the world, it’s a time of unspeakable tragedy. This year, we have the opportunity to make preventable newborn deaths a thing of the past – it’s only right that we continue to do everything we can.

* Annette Brook is the Liberal Democrat MP for Dorset and North Poole.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Ruth Bright 29th Mar '14 - 9:32pm

    Annette – thank you for your support for testing for Group B Streptococcus, an infection which kills 75 babies each year in the UK.

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