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SOWETO: Blanket of Hope for babies & mothers

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Yesterday, mothers, fathers, midwives and community members gathered in Soweto to show their commitment to saving women’s and babies’ lives. They came together to knit a blanket of hope to present to leaders from around the world who will come to South Africa next week for a high-level event on women and children’s health. 


Save the Children South Africa’s CEO, Gugu Ndebele explained “This blanket is a symbol of the common thread that unites us all. We were all born: we were all fragile babies and we all had a mother who took risks giving life to us. The purpose of today’s knit-in is to remind everyone of that common thread and to inspire the action needed to ensure that no mother dies giving birth and no baby is born to die.”


Women in countries around the world – from Bangladesh to Canada have been knitting squares to send to South Africa to send a message that a child’s first day should be one of celebration not mourning.  


For Ms. Ndebele “Globally and in South Africa there has been significant progress in saving the lives of women and children but newborn survival has lagged behind”


Around the world, babies’ deaths in the first month of life account for close to half (44%) of all under-five mortality. Every year, nearly three million babies do not survive the first month of life and more than 280,000 women die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. In South Africa, around 14, 000 newborns die each year.


According to Ms. Ndebele “We can prevent the majority of these deaths. The presence of a trained health worker, along with basic medicines such as antiseptics and antibiotics, vital equipment and a clean environment to work in, can save lives”. 


World Vision South Africa’s National Director Paula Barnard highlighted the need to work in partnership to stem the tide of maternal and neonatal mortality. “Civil Society organisations, the Government and communities need to work together. In South Africa, we have strong policies but we need to ensure they are delivered. More must be done to reach all mothers and babies and to tackle the poverty and inequality that lower the chances of a healthy delivery”. 


Midwives, nurses and Mothers participating all shared their stories and experiences of pregnancy and childbirth, the challenges, the success stories and what more can be done to save lives. The event was organised by Save the Children, World Vision, PATH and the Society of Midwives of South Africa.




For interviews, photo, video footage and further information, please contact: Karen Allan, Communications Manager, Save the Children South Africa, Tel: 012 430 7775 or 074 131 4041 


Notes to Editors 


1. The blanket of hope will be unveiled at a special, civil society reception in Johannesburg on Sunday 29th June on the eve of a high level conference – the PMNCH Partners Forum chaired by Graca Machel where a global action plan to tackle newborn deaths will be launched.  Press are invited to cover the reception which is taking place from 17.30 – 19.30 at the Michelangelo Hotel, Sandton. . 

2. For more information about newborn survival see , a new report released by Save the Children and World Vision