A Common Thread: Reaching Every Mother and Every Newborn

Newborn health advocates stand in front of the Blanket of Hope at the Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This blog was originally published by the Every One campaign

On the eve of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Forum being held in Johannesburg this week, Save the Children along with 10 other South African civil society and professional associations hosted a high-profile event bringing together decision makers, activists, health workers and celebrities to call for renewed efforts to end newborn deaths in South Africa and globally.

Gugu Ndebele, CEO of Save the Children South Africa welcomed guests explaining "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.”

The South African Minister for Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi a champion of the Every Newborn Action Plan being launched at the Partners Forum today, underlined the government’s commitment to improving newborn survival and pledged to work harder to ensure that every newborn has the best start in life.

Margaret Chan the Director General of the World Health Organisation spoke about the importance of the Every Newborn Action Plan, as well as meeting existing commitments to MDGs 4 and 5 to see a reduction in child and maternal deaths by 2015. 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. Renowned newborn specialist Professor Joy Lawn spoke about the simple solutions that can save the lives of millions of babies around the world. Sibongile, a young mother from Soweto shared her moving story about the pain of losing her daughter and the need for mothers to access expert care during pregnancy to avoid possible birth complications. The event also included a performance from the renowned South African musician and UN Ambassador, Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

The event was the first time the Blanket of Hope was unveiled. The blanket is made up of squares knitted by mothers, midwives and activists from all around the word in solidarity with mothers and newborns, and was sown together, in large part, by mothers and midwives last week in Johannesburg. The blanket is a symbol of the warmth, comfort and care that we want to ensure every baby and mother receives, no matter where they live. The blanket will continue to be displayed throughout the Partners’ Forum.

Crucially, at the event, guests including all the speakers pledged to play their part in ending newborn deaths. The host organisations also launched a South African civil society pledge 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.

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