Sunday, June 25, 2017

Infant Mortality

| Article posted on December - 15 - 2008

The death of a baby is a shattering event. After an arduous pregnancy, usually complicated by malnutrition and a myriad of other health problems, followed by the ordeal of labor, which generally lasts for several days and usually occurs in the absence of skilled birth attendants and any kind of pain relief, too many Gambian mothers must then endure the unthinkable—the death of the very child they suffered for.

According to the annual Mother’s Index, Gambia is amongst the worst places in the world to be a mother. Since mothers and babies are so closely linked, a terrible place to be a mother will also be a terrible place to be an infant. In fact, compared to a mother in the top ten countries (the best of which is Sweden), a mother in the bottom ten countries is 750 times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth and 28 times more likely to see her child die in its first year of life.

Clearly, life is not easy for mothers and children in the bottom-ranked countries. Every year, 4 million babies worldwide die in their first month of life, which is roughly equivalent to the number of babies born in the United States each year. For the Gambia, this means that, of approximately 65,000 babies born this past year, 5,000 did not survive.

How can this be? How can we live with these figures? Clearly, we are not the only people asking these questions. Melinda Gates, in “State of the World’s Mothers 2006,” declared the following: “No investment in global health has a greater return than saving the life of a child.”

Most of the babies in the developing world die from absolutely preventable causes. While this is sobering and upsetting, it is also the very fact that gives us hope. If we can get to these children, and if we can prevent what has yet to be prevented, then we can change this horrible reality. According to research presented in the British medical journal The Lancet, most of these young lives could be saved with low-tech, low-cost measures which include clean deliveries attended by skilled personnel, tetanus immunizations for pregnant women, and antibiotics for infections. Exclusive breast-feeding was also recommended. However, breast-feeding is only safe, if the mother is HIV negative, which has been discussed in a previous newsletter.

Currently, Congress seeks to pass new legislation, the CHILD and Newborn Act, which would dramatically reduce the deaths of children worldwide by providing increased funding for basic life-saving tools such as vaccines, vitamins and antibiotics.

“Leadership from the U.S. can and does make an enormous contribution in saving the lives of newborns and young children,” Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) was quoted as saying.

We care about the lives of children. And because we care, we do our part. It is really very, very simple.

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