''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 10 No 2

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Thursday August 29, 2013 - Save the Children report on the State of the World's Mothers is out and it paints a grim picture of the survival of babies and mothers all over the world. It is an indictment on health delivery systems in both so-called developing and developed countries. Alas our very own country is again in the bottom rung, never mind the trumpets of deception that is soothing music to the ears of the smoke and mirrors occupant of State House.

"More than 1 million babies die on the first day of life – making the birth day the most dangerous day for babies in nearly every country, rich and poor alike. This is one of the major findings of Save the Children’s 14th annual State of the World’s Mothers report.

The findings indicate, as never before, that helping babies survive the first day – and the first week – of life represents the greatest remaining challenge in reducing child mortality and meeting the ambitious Millennium Development Goal of reducing 1990 child mortality rates by two-thirds by 2015."...begins the Executive Summary of the State of the World Mothers Save the Children Report for 2013. The report covering a wide range of countries provides a challenge to all health delivery ministries and organisations to take a good hard look at how they operate, what they offer to this vital arm of humanity and we would hope, that will galvanise governments all over the world into positive action.

Sierra Leone finds itself in the bottom 10 of this report and rather than have the government's hired hands polluting the ether with excuses and coming up with inane imaginations, would be charitable and truthful enough to see things in their true perspective and state the truth as it is on the ground. We would suggest the report be read and appreciated, more so when the report offers solutions and the way forward in solving such problems.

We now know that newborn deaths are not inevitable and that low-income countries can make significant progress in reducing newborn mortality. We have identified the three major causes of these deaths – complications during birth, prematurity and infections – and we have developed a set of interventions that can prevent or treat each of these causes. These proven interventions – coupled with stronger health systems and sufficient health care workers who are trained, deployed and supported to tackle the key causes of child mortality – have the potential to reduce newborn deaths by as much as 75 percent. This would save more than 2 million newborn lives each year. Ending preventable deaths within a generation will require an increased focus on the steps needed to reduce newborn mortality. What is lacking is the political will and funding to deliver these solutions to all the mothers and babies who need them.

We are offering these pieces of advice fully aware that in many an instance, their hired hands, parading as journalists and what have you would be quick to jump on the bandwagon of denial and would try to delve into areas in which they are least competent eg interpreting statistical data when the government was slammed in another report some weeks back. We would advise that in wanting to twist the report to suit the eyes and ears of their paymaster at State House that they heed well the repercussions of their joint enterprise.

An original analysis by Save the Children estimates that within the first month of life, more than 1 million babies could be saved each year with universal access to these products, which cost between 13 cents and $6 each and are ready for rapid scale-up now.

The products are: •steroid injections for women in preterm labor (to reduce deaths due to premature babies’ breathing problems);

•resuscitation devices (to save babies who do not breathe at birth);

•chlorhexidine cord cleansing (to prevent umbilical cord infections); and

•injectable antibiotics (to treat newborn sepsis and pneumonia).

Other low-cost interventions such as kangaroo mother care and early and exclusive breastfeeding would save many more babies. Such interventions, as part of strengthened health care systems, not only can dramatically reduce maternal and newborn deaths, but also can prevent a lifetime of negative health consequences such as long-term disabilities, intellectual impairment and increased vulnerability to illness. Poor health is not only costly for individuals and their families, it can also impede a nation’s efforts toward economic growth.

What this means is that if those controlling the peoples' purse can take a second look at this new report, they would easily see that one ticket and expenses for one member of the many delegations which use tax payers' money to fly out of the country on every opportunity, could be used in saving many lives if such delegations and such overseas visits are drastically cut back so that the poor and unconnected would be saved.

The report recommends a number of moves that could help a country like Sierra Leone raise from the bottom group position -

Invest in health workers – especially those working on the front lines – to reach the most vulnerable mothers and babies. The world faces a shortage of 5 million health workers of all types and there is an acute shortage of frontline health workers, including 350,000 with midwifery skills. New frontline health workers need to be recruited and trained, and those who are already practicing need opportunities to update and improve their skills.

These health workers must be part of functioning health systems, and deployed to serve communities where they are most needed. Midwives and birth attendants need training, supplies and appropriate facilities to prevent and respond to birth complications. It is essential that routine obstetric care includes proven solutions such as giving corticosteroids to mothers in preterm labor, which can help infants’ lungs develop so that they can breathe when they are born. Birth attendants also need training to help newborn babies survive the “golden minute” –that first moment after birth when, if a baby is not breathing spontaneously, a simple intervention can save her life.

The ball is in the court of the Sierra Leone government and its various operatives as we remind them of this section of the report's Executive Summary.

"The first day of life is the most dangerous day for mothers and babies. Worldwide, the day a child is born is by far the most dangerous day in a child’s life. Save the Children’s first-ever Birth Day Risk Index compares first-day death rates for 186 countries and finds that in most countries, children are at greatest risk on the day they are born.

Babies in Somalia have the highest risk of dying on their birth day. First-day death rates are almost as high in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, and Sierra Leone. Mothers in these four countries are also at high risk on this day. Mothers in Somalia and Sierra Leone face the second and third highest lifetime risk of maternal death in the world, respectively."

Kindly note this section of the report in which the United States also comes under the spotlight -

"In the industrialized world, the United States has by far the most first-day deaths. Only 1 percent of the world’s newborn deaths occur in industrialized countries, but the newborn period is still the riskiest time, no matter where a baby is born, with the first day being the riskiest time of all in most, if not all, countries. The United States has the highest first-day death rate in the industrialized world. An estimated 11,300 newborn babies die each year in the United States on the day they are born."


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©Sierra Herald 2002