UNICEF India organized a panel discussion to highlight the importance of celebrating mothers and their newborns. A doctor from Orissa, a front line ASHA worker from Uttar Pradesh, a father from West Bengal, UNICEF India Deputy Representative, Ms Henriette Ahrens, UNICEF officiating Chief of Health, Dr. Gagan Gupta and UNICEF Celebrity Advocate Kareena Kapoor Khan, engaged in an hour-long discussion on the need for support all mothers and their newborns so that they survive and thrive.
The event was organized to mark Mother’s Day in the backdrop of UNICEF’s global #EveryChildALIVE campaign.
Globally UNICEF is focused on Every Child Alive, a signature neonatal campaign that supports and accelerates UNICEF’s efforts to eliminate preventable neonatal deaths by 2030, with a focus on the girl child. Given that India contributes to nearly one-fifth of the global burden of under-five deaths and around a quarter of the global burden of neonatal deaths, this campaign focuses on creating an in-depth discourse around the issues.
Speaking on the occasion, Ms Henriette Ahrens said, “I congratulate the Government of India for their efforts and investments towards Universal Health Coverage, which is well reflected under “Aayushmaan Bharat”. I also salute the team of skilled health workers, who are committed to support every mother and baby with a safe pair of hands,” she added.
Interacting with panelists, Dr. Gagan Gupta said, “India has shown good and consistent progress in reduction of child mortality, with nearly 120,000 fewer under-five deaths in 2016 as compared to 2015. However, more efforts are needed for reducing neonatal deaths and addressing the gender gap in child survival. Simple interventions like ensuring every newborn is breast fed within the first hour of life can reduce neonatal deaths by 22 per cent. Government is doing its part but it is also our collective responsibility to ensure every child gets the best start in life, truly leaving no one behind.”
Dr. Hota fromMalkangiri, Orissa shared his experiences of an arduous 10 km journey-on- foot to reach the nearest Primary Healthcare Centre and save the life of a tribal mother and her newborn. Uma Devi, an ASHA worker from Uttar Pradesh shared how she convinced a mother and her family to take their newborn to a specialized centre for newborns- the nearest Special Newborn Care Unit. A father from West Bengal shared his experiences of providing kangaroo care to his newborn twins and supporting his wife so that she could breastfeed the children.
Kareena Kapoor Khan, shared “When I was pregnant, access to quality healthcare and good doctors and nurses was a given. But this should not just be a privilege for some. Quality healthcare is something that needs to be assured for every mother and every baby, girl or boy, wherever they live. Every mother and every baby has the right to be supported by a safe pair of hands during pregnancy and the newborn period,”
Kapoor also highlighted the need for gender equity and quality, which she said are the next frontiers for newborn survival. “We need to look after our girls just as well as we look after our boys. As females ourselves, it is incredibly sad that baby girls do not always get the same care that baby boys do. If your baby girl becomes unwell, get help for them just as quickly as you would do for a boy,” she said.
Kapoor has been associated with the UNICEF for over five years and has been supporting the discourse around child rights especially in the context of education and more recently around newborn health, nutrition and development.
The discussion concluded on the need for joint efforts of all stakeholders to amplify messages and facilities around neonatal survival. This includes affordable and quality healthcare for every mother and newborn, 24X7 supply of clean water and electricity at health facilities, presence of a skilled health attendant during birth, early initiation of breast feeding and skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child.