Let’s save our newborn babies
It is not that difficult or complicated if we really try...
For almost every mother, the first days with her newborn baby are precious memories to be cherished forever. They are surely some of the most challenging and at the same time fulfilling days we will experience as women.
I remember some long days and nights, without much sleep. Some were frustrating, as I tried inexpertly to calm my crying child. Some were simply bliss – as I treasured the new life that I had been able to bring into the world.
I know I have been fortunate to embark on the journey of parenthood – and I will always remember the first days of my child’s life. I have been lucky. For too many mothers in South Asia, the first days of their baby’s life will be remembered for a whole different reason.
In our part of the world, one million babies die every year in their first month of life. The joy of a newborn quickly becomes a tragedy.
I was shocked to discover how often a baby dies in South Asia. Of course, we all know that newborns are vulnerable, and that bad things can happen. But the sheer scale – 2,800 newborns dying every day in South Asia, before they even reach the age of one month!
This is both overwhelming and totally unacceptable to me, especially knowing that these deaths are preventable! I cannot imagine how it must feel to carry a baby for nine months, to bring a baby into the world, and then to have its life snatched away just as it has begun.
UNICEF has launched its Every Child Alive campaign this Tuesday to speak out against this harsh reality. In South Asia, one in every 36 babies dies within a month. The latest UNICEF data shows that no region in the world is more dangerous than South Asia for newborns.
It should not be like this – and it is both possible and doable to keep many more babies alive and healthy. The governments are doing everything they can to ensure adequate service delivery. However, I would like to reiterate that it is not only about governments doing their bit but it is about civil society taking relevant and collective action.
As mothers and societies, we need to do three things:
- First, we need to feed our newborn babies in the best way that we can: with our breast milk. To give your baby the best start in life that he or she deserves, start breastfeeding within the first hour of life – and feed the baby only breast milk, nothing else.
- Second, we need to challenge harmful beliefs and practices that are putting our babies in danger. We need to entrust ourselves to skilled birth attendants who are properly trained to look after us and our babies in the time around birth.
- If these people are not available, we need to demand them. No woman should give birth without help from a trained birth attendant. It is too dangerous.
- Third, we need to look after our girls just as well as we look after our boys. As females ourselves, it is incredibly sad that baby girls do not always get the same care that baby boys do. If your baby girl becomes unwell, get help for them just as quickly as you would do for a boy.
It is time that we all make collective efforts to save newborns in the region.
South Asia can become a region where it is very safe to be born. It is not that difficult. It is not that complicated. So, let’s get to work for our newborns.
Kareena Kapoor is a Bollywood actress and UNICEF's Goodwill Ambassador. This article was published on February 22, 2018, 2:00 AM IST in Times of India.