First Breath: a new maternal health Christmas campaign

Just launched by leading international development charity, VSO, First Breath is a new maternal health Christmas campaign

The sad reality is that globally a newborn baby dies every 34 seconds and one million babies die on their first day of life. 10 to 20% of babies cannot breathe by themselves when they are born, but with the right care, almost all of them could be saved.
Sadly, if you’re born in a developing country, survival rates are significantly lower.

Two London doctors – who are also VSO volunteers – have joined forces urging the public to save a baby’s life this Christmas. Money raised for the campaign will help future VSO volunteers deliver life-saving training to local midwives and pay for resuscitators to help babies breathe.

Alexa Vardy, on placement at Abi Adi Hospital, Ethiopia

Dr Alexa Vardy from London who works as an Obsetetrician and Gynaecologist at St Heliers Hospital in Sutton, delivered 100 babies in challenging conditions when she volunteered in Ethiopia. Alexa spent one year volunteering at the Abi Adi Hospital in Tigray in Northern Ethiopia where neonatal mortality is particularly high.

During her placement, Alexa improved maternity services, introduced basic baby life-saving equipment and provided vital resuscitation training to Midwives. Alexa recalls, “One young woman arrived having already been in labour for several hours. I quickly realised something was terribly wrong. Her baby was the wrong way up which meant an emergency delivery was needed. Heartbreakingly, it was already too late for the baby, but while I was performing a post –delivery check-up, to my complete astonishment, I discovered that she was in fact expecting twins. We managed to safely deliver a second baby – a beautiful baby girl. As we had the expertise to deal with the situation, the family were able to take their healthy daughter home.”

Dr Harry Lynch from London who works as a Paediatrician at Queens Hospital in Romford
Volunteered in earthquake – ravaged Nepal earlier this year, which claimed nearly 9,000 lives and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. During natural disasters, pregnancy-related deaths soar. Many women lose access to essential maternal health services and give birth in appalling conditions without access to safe delivery services and lifesaving care. After shocks continue to blight the region, bringing back terrible memories and prompting people to run from their homes.

Dr Lynch spent six months volunteering at Dhading District Hospital, 50km north east of Kathmandu – an area badly hit by the earthquake. He was part of one of VSO’s emergency response teams providing newborn life support and vital resuscitation training to Midwives. He worked closely with other medical professionals to improve their maternity ward practice and introduced basic baby life-saving equipment and techniques which make a difference between life and death.

With your help First Breath can save babies’ lives this Christmas, click here for more.