By Dr Jermaine Bamfo
The most dangerous day in a child’s life is the day that they are born.
With stats like that, you can understand that babies are fighting against the tide from the minute they emerge into the word. Kicking, screaming, they put everything they have into taking that first gasp of air and inflating those preciously vulnerable lungs. Their senses are wildly overwhelmed by the symphony of bright lights and dazzling sounds of the outer world for the first time. Their skin crackles against the bite of cold which makes a change from the months they spent in their mother’s warmth. They are outside the protection of their mother.
The survival cord broken.
The battle has begun.
This is not an easy process, regardless of where a baby is born. This makes it even more crucial that babies are given the tools they need, and the environment they require, to survive. For an unfortunate reality is that in Ghana and many other countries in the world, some babies need more of a helping hand in those first few minutes, hours, days and weeks…to come out of that fight alive.
The issue is that at present there are too many young ones who need help winning their first battle. For statistics show that 90 newborns die daily in Ghana, with a death of a baby in Ghana under the age of one occurring every 15 minutes.
Every. 15. Minutes.
To give babies a fighting chance at life, they need expertise in their corner. Expertise which may be lacking due to lack of appropriately-trained healthcare workers or expertise which may be too far away for them to reach in time. They need technology and equipment; conditions such as hypothermia, respiratory distress and hypoxia require adequate treatment with medical devices such as incubators – but for many babies in Ghana, even these options are unavailable.
It is unfortunate that in many areas in Ghana, relatively simple interventions for conditions which are highly-treatable may not be available. It becomes more critical when you appreciate that the majority of neonatal deaths are due to preventable causes, such as infectious diseases which could be immunised against.
Disparities don’t stop with Ghana/Sub-Saharan Africa and the majority of the Western World however. You would be surprised to find that there is a chapter being written on the shores of the UK as well. According to ‘Facts and Figures on Infant Mortality & Stillbirths’ by Public Health England, ‘non-white ethnicity’ is independently associated with increased UK infant mortality.
The London Health Observatory found that one of the five most important factors associated with infant death in London is being borne of Afro-Caribbean heritage. Mothers of Black origin are TWICE as likely to have their baby die before their first birthday as their white counterparts. So even when black babies have access to better sanitation and healthcare, noticeable disparity remains in infant mortality amongst our babies compared to Caucasian babies here in the UK! Many reasons have been given to try and rationalise this: increased teenage pregnancy rates in black communities, a mistrust of healthcare and an unwillingness to present to clinic, etc. But the fact remains, that there is a gap.
A gap which we at the GUBA Foundation aim to address. A gap we are so desperate to close.
However in order to close the gap, we need your help. ‘Closing The Gap’ is a momentous project, on a grand scale, with the potential to leave a mark on future generations and change the landscape of health in Ghana and amongst the BME in the UK forever. It’s going to take more than wordplay. Ideas such as Finland’s much-acclaimed ‘Baby Box’ have had an immeasurable impact on reducing infant mortality in their country of origin. Likewise, we need your ideas and your innovation. We need your support, your energy, and your resources.
For the GUBA Foundation passionately remembers babies of Ghanaian and UK BME heritage. We remember those babies who were carried but never met. We remember those held but not taken home; those who came home but could not stay. We fight in their memory, to safeguard future generations. Their memory puts fire in our bellies, intensifying our sense of responsibility. Because we fervently believe every baby deserves an equal shot at life, regardless of where they’re born and to whom they are born.
Help us spare women from the most unimaginable pain a mother can bear. Help us aid babies in need. Help us remove the danger. Help us make that first birthday a day of celebration to many more, and help us make that first day the best day. Help us make sure that many more babies come out of that first fight of their lives victorious, having been born with a winning corner.
Help us Close the Gap on Infant Mortality.