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Newborns: A promise kept, a life-saving plan agreed

Kath visiting healthcare colleagues in Liberia in 2012
Kath visiting healthcare colleagues in Liberia in 2012

In December 2012, I traveled to Liberia with Save the Children and saw the challenges faced by Liberian health care workers.

I promised Liberian colleagues that I’d continue to share their stories: attending the World Health Assembly in May this year has allowed me to keep that promise.

Discussions this week have ranged from the importance of protecting healthcare providers from attack to gender-based violence; however the key focus has been on the Every Newborn Action plan.

This would ensure all countries commit to reducing infant mortality by ensuring healthcare workers are trained in life-saving interventions such as:

  • facilitating breastfeeding
  • resuscitating newborns
  • promoting skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo care, between a mother and her newborn baby, so her heart rate and body temperature regulate can regulate those of her child.

Every year, six million infants die either pre-birth, during birth or in their first month of life. Yet so many of these deaths would be preventable, if there were enough competent staff with the skills to ensure these kinds of interventions.

The commitment to 0.7%

Last year, I joined Save the Children’s campaign calling for the Government to meet their commitment to spend 0.7% of our country’s income on international development. And we succeeded. This week, I met with the Department for International Development (DfID) and learned that securing this commitment has meant that development programmes are already being scaled up, strengthening the capacity of healthcare systems in low-income countries.

In Liberia, I saw for myself the difference aid makes in building capacity within a community and it’s wonderful to know that this support is not just being sustained: it’s being increased.

An amazing opportunity

Attending the WHA as a Save the Children Health Worker Ambassador has been a superb opportunity. It has encouraged me to keep campaigning for more health workers and greater community involvement. We all have a part to play, however small.

I’ll continue to play mine. I hope you will, too. And I’d like to thank the amazing Save the Children team who made my attendance at this inspiring gathering possible, and who continue to make a difference for children globally.

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