Surviving the First Day, the 14th annual State of the World’s Mothers report released earlier this month by Save the Children, examines first-day death rates of babies in 186 countries and maternal and child healthcare in 176 countries.

“The report highlights just how critical the first day of life can be for women and their infants.”

This year’s report features the first ever Birth Day Risk Index, an analysis that ranks countries based on an infant’s chances of surviving the first day. Save the Children’s Mother’s Index compiles the newest and most reliable data about women’s and children’s health, along with intervening economic and political factors, and provides a list of the best and worst places to be a mother.  Unsurprisingly, there is a stark overlap between the Birth Day Risk Index and the Mother’s Index, showing the necessity of quality care on the day of delivery for both mother and child.

Surviving the First Day
finds that despite progress, maternal and infant mortality remain high, with the world’s poorest nations bearing the heaviest burden and facing the highest rates of maternal and child death. Countries from sub-Saharan Africa fill the ten lowest spots on the Mother’s Index and fare almost as badly on the Birth Day Risk Index. Somalia, a country that has felt the enfeebling effects of civil war for over 20 years, has the world’s highest first-day death rates, with 18 deaths per 1,000 live births.  Somalia also has the second highest rate of maternal mortality. According to the report, more than half the female populations of Ethiopia, Niger, and South Sudan receive no prenatal care whatsoever. Other countries with high rates of maternal and infant mortality include Chad, Kenya, Nigeria, and Guinea-Bissau.

Save the Children offers four ways to improve the health and well being of mothers and children, and WAHA International is pleased to recognize that we are working in all of these areas:

“Address the underlying causes of newborn mortality, especially gender inequality”

Female empowerment can go a long way in improving maternal healthcare.  According to the study, encouraging women and girls to take on leadership roles in their villages can augment care-seeking behavior. If women and girls become active players in their communities, they are more likely to take matters of healthcare into their own hands. For these reasons, WAHA has incorporated female empowerment and women’s health advocacy into our agenda, including a recently launched female empowerment and social reintegration campaign in Ethiopia.

“Invest in health workers to reach the most vulnerable mothers and babies”

Save the Children estimates that there is a shortage of 5 million health workers, including 350,000 with midwifery skills. We read that Africa “as a whole has only 11 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 people – less than half the critical threshold of 23 generally considered necessary to deliver essential health services. The most severe shortages of health workers are found in Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone and Somalia.”

WAHA continues to work in the arena of medical personnel training. We have kicked up training programs throughout Africa with particular attention on Somalia, where we recently instituted theMogadishu Midwifery School in partnership with the UNFPA, and Ethiopia, where medical students at the teaching hospitals of Jimma, Gondar, and Adama study under leading maternal health experts. WAHA’s fistula surgeons carry out fistula care training in over 20 countries, including in Afghanistan,Guinea Bissau, and Senegal.

“Invest in low-cost, low-tech solutions, which health workers can use to save lives during pregnancy, at birth and immediately after birth”

Many cheap and simple techniques have proven to save women and their babies. Breastfeeding is one of the most important practices that can drastically improve the well-being of a child and can be easily taught to a woman by a local health worker. Last August, WAHA worked to get the word out by holding a breastfeeding awareness event in Dadaab, Kenya.

Mobile phones and motorbike ambulances can better equip health workers and are inexpensive. WAHA’s specially designed motorbikes transport women to health facilities and require little maintenance, allowing them to be easily run by local health authorities and communities. To further reduce delays in accessing medical care, cheap but durable mobile phones have been dispersed to health workers to ensure better communication during times of emergency.

“Strengthen health systems and address demand-related barriers to access and use of health services”

Save the Children’s report finds that healthcare facilities in developing countries are often in need of renovations, equipment supply, and medicine. WAHA International has overseen facility scale-up of this kind on an enormous level since our inception in 2009.  Successful refurbishments were carried out at some of Somalia’s largest hospitals. With renovations at the maternity departments ofBanadir, Hanano and Forlanini Hospitals in Mogadishu, WAHA established full-functioning fistula wards and treated hundreds of women free of charge. Most recently, WAHA renovated Ignace Deen Hospital’s Department of Urology in Conakry, Guinea.

Save the Children is an NGO working across the globe to improve the lives of children in need. Their annual State of the World’s Mothers report is a widely respected ranking of the best and worst places to be a mother.

Read this year’s report: Surviving the First Day

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