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Commitment to Ending Newborn and Maternal Deaths - Open Letter

Friday 4 July 2014

On the occasion of a high-profile international health forum – the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health - taking place in Johannesburg from the 30th   June-1st July,civil society organisations and professional associations have issued the following open letter

On Monday a significant international conference on women’s and children’s health, co-hosted by the Government of South Africa, will begin in Johannesburg. It will see the launch of a new global plan to tackle newborn mortality – the Every Newborn Action Plan. Globally, newborn deaths make up nearly half of all deaths amongst children under-5. In South Africa, they account for around a third of under-5 deaths. Improving the health of newborns will depend on strengthening the health and survival of the mother given the intrinsic link between a mother and baby and is vital to save millions of mothers’ and babies’ lives.

This is a critical opportunity for the world to show their commitment to saving babies and mothers’ lives. In South Africa, strong progress has been made in reducing child deaths thanks in a large part to the comprehensive prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV. But progress in tackling newborn and maternal deaths requires more attention. With enough political will, commitment and investment, we can prevent the majority of these deaths.  We must ensure that every birth is supported by high quality care, that we tackle underlying causes like poverty and gender inequality, raise community engagement in forging solutions. We must also support the doctors, nurses, midwives and healthworkers who are the frontline providers of care to do their jobs. We welcome the commitment the Government of South Africa has already shown on tackling newborn deaths and urge them to accelerate efforts to help end the tragedy of children failing to survive their first month of life and women dying in childbirth.

Saving women and babies’ lives is not up to one group alone. We  - as civil society and professional organisations in South Africa - resolve to support the delivery of critical actions such as  guaranteeing all women give birth attended by a skilled health worker, improving the standard of newborn care and increasing its coverage including through sufficient numbers of community health workers, increasing public awareness and harnessing the power of parents, families and communities for change, integrating HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights responses  and holding government and health providers to account for the commitments made to women and children.

As world leaders gather in Johannesburg we are calling on them to raise their collective voices and show their commitment to ending this tragedy. For together, we can make a tangible difference in the life of every mother and child.

Signed by: 

The Children’s Institute   |   Kheth’Impilo   |   Mothers2Mothers South Africa  |  Neonatal Nurses Association of South Africa  |  Newborns Groote Schuur Trust  |  PATH South Africa  |  People’s Health Movement, South Africa  |  Save the Children South Africa  |  United South African Neonatal Association  | The Society of Midwives of South Africa  |  Soul City  |  World Vision South Africa  |  Yezingane Network  |  Zoe-Life

Learn More:

If you are a South African civil society or professional association and want to sign our pledge on child and maternal survival you can do so here.