India: Let’s make this election count towards saving newborn lives

Jan Diwas - Children March -2013Reshma, 20, lives in a slum cluster in New Delhi. Her first pregnancy ended in her child dying, due to complications during the birth. She did not have assistance from a trained birth attendant: her baby was delivered by an untrained midwife at home, and was stillborn.

“My daughter’s head got stuck,” Reshma says. “She couldn’t get out. She suffocated inside and died right there. How do I feel? If a mother loses her child, how does she feel? For nine months I carried her in the womb and I couldn’t save her.”

India loses 1.4 million children a year

That’s one child every 20 seconds: the highest rate anywhere in the world. More than 300,000 babies die each year on the first day they enter the world. These deaths are very far from inevitable. Half of India’s women give birth without skilled birth attendants, which puts both mother and child at risk.

Like parents everywhere in the world, Indian mothers wish for their children to be safe, happy and healthy. It’s what they all want for their children. And it’s not too much to ask. Why is life still a lottery for children who are poor?

There is a lot to be done to make India a safer and healthier place for a mother or a newborn. We have the resources and the knowhow and we can save these precious lives.

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India’s economic growth is phenomenal. Its future is bright. So why is the nation failing its children? Many Indians are demanding an answer to this question.

Just like a child, a nation can’t grow big and strong without a nurturing start, and in a country’s case, that nourishment is healthy children. If we are to lead as a nation we must invest in our children and hence in the country’s future.

The right to life should be universal

When I meet mothers like Reshma and hear their stories, it reminds me that so many of us are lucky enough to take it for granted that we will have trained help to give birth to our children, just as our mothers did to give birth to us. The right to life is fundamental and should be universal; unless we all agree on that, solutions to these problems will remain elusive for years to come.

India is gearing up for elections; and this time, they will not be business as usual. We must demand answers from our political representatives and hold them accountable so they keep their commitments over the next five years.

This is your chance to stand up for children, your chance to reclaim the rights of children. As Nelson Mandela said: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Let’s make India’s children count!  

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