South Africans join forces for renewed action to end newborn deaths

Monday 30 June 2014

South African activists, health workers and celebrities join forces to urge renewed action to end newborn deaths

Yesterday, on the eve of a significant international event on women and children's health and the launch of a new global plan to end newborn deaths, South African activists and health workers, organised a high-profile event to call for renewed efforts to stop mothers and babies dying from preventable causes both in South Africa and globally. 

Gugu Ndebele, CEO of Save the Children South Africa and one of the hosts of last night’s event explained "In South Africa we have a history of coming together to fight injustice and that is what we are doing tonight – joining forces to campaign against the injustice of babies failing to survive the first month of life and mothers dying in childbirth.  In South Africa, and globally, there has been huge progress in saving mother’s and children’s lives. But sadly we haven’t seen that same progress when it comes to newborn babies. Yet, we can prevent the majority of these deaths with commitment, will and simple solutions like ensuring every mother and child is in reach of a fully trained and equipped health worker”.

At the evening event, the coalition of civil society and professional associations who organised it issued their own three point pledge setting out the action they will take. Ms. Ndebele added “With this pledge we are committing to supporting the delivery of critical actions such as guaranteeing all women give birth attended by a skilled health worker, harnessing the power of parents, families and communities for change and holding government and health providers to account for the commitments made to women and children.”

The event included speeches from the Honorable Minister for Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi who underlined the government’s commitment to improving newborn survival saying “Together we will work harder to ensure that every newborn and every child has the best start in life”. 

Margaret Chan the Director General of the World Health Organisation spoke about the Global Every Newborn Action plan being launched today in South Africa and meeting our commitments to Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 to see a reduction in child and maternal deaths by 2015. Renowned newborn specialist Professor Joy Lawn spoke about the simple solutions that can save the lives of millions of babies around the world. A local mother from Soweto shared her moving story about the pain of losing her daughter and the need for mothers to visit ante-natal clinics early on to avoid possible birth complications. Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Tedoros Adhanom joined the event and spoke about how his country has managed to meet MDG 4 through policies including increasing the number of health workers across the country.

South African music legend Yvonne Chaka Chaka lent her support to the campaign and gave a riveting performance of a special song focused on preventing teen pregnancy. Ms Chaka Chaka had all the participants “moving to the beat” including the Minister and Ms. Chan

The event saw the unveiling of a giant blanket of hope which has been created by people around the world and sewn together in Johannesburg to show solidarity with mothers and newborns.             END 

Notes to editors

  1. The event was organized on the occasion of the Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health Partners’ Forum hosted by Graca Machel in her role as Chair of PMNCH and and the Government of South Africa. More information available here -
  2. Last night’s event was hosted by Save the Children South Africa, World Vision South Africa, PATH South Africa, Zoe-Life, Society of Midwives of South Africa, Khet’himpilo, Mothers2 Mothers South Africa, Neonatal Nurses Association of Southern Africa, Yezingane Network, Newborns Groote Schuur Trust, South African Kangaroo MotherCare Foundation and the United South African Neonatal Association.
  3. The full pledge issues by these organisations can be read here

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