Right now, a mother is about to give birth. She lives miles away from a health centre and the road there is dusty and uneven. Along the way, there’s a river to cross. And she doesn’t own a car or motorbike or boat.
There’s no running water in her village. And no medical professional.
If anything goes wrong, she’s miles away from help. And even if the birth seems to go well today, there’s a high risk of infection that won’t become apparent for another few days.
Here, you will meet mothers from Cambodia with stories like this one. Their babies died because help was too far away. Devastating stories like this happen every day, but most are preventable.
In remote areas of Cambodia, newborn babies needlessly die due to lack of adequate healthcare. Leaving mums like Sreypov and Saly heartbroken.
Why are newborn babies dying from preventable causes?
Infection, pre-term complications and asphyxia are the three biggest killers of newborn babies. In most cases, deaths are treatable and preventable – but mothers can’t access the healthcare needed to save their babies’ lives.
Health centres might be too far away. There might be a lack of trained staff or equipment. Or families might not have the knowledge they need to keep them and their children safe.
Sreypov lives in Kratie Province, Cambodia, in a village cut off from the mainland by the Mekong River. It’s the definition of remote.
She gave birth to her first baby in the middle of the night, with no medical help. Three days later, Sreypov realised something was wrong her little girl.
“At first my baby was good. She looked strong. But when she was three days old, she was crying a lot … I held my baby and tried to comfort her – she was crying so much she was breathless. Her face and palms were coloured purple and her lips were black.
“I wanted to go to the health centre but it was raining hard and there were strong winds – we couldn’t get there.” Her baby died after just three days.
Sreypov has been through this pain not once, but twice. “I don’t know why my babies cried until they were breathless … If someone asks me how many children I have, I always tell them I have two children but they passed away. I really love both my babies. I wish they were both alive.
The purple and black discoloration of her baby’s skin was a symptom of cyanosis, which is usually caused by asphyxia. It’s likely that Sreypov’s little girl died struggling to breathe.
Making sure mothers have access to a health centre, staffed by trained midwives, can help stop babies dying from asphyxiation.
After giving birth at home in Stung Treng Province, Cambodia, Saly was surrounded by her family. “I was very excited to hold my first-born baby. I was with my mother, my great uncle and a few relatives. They were all very excited because my baby daughter was very beautiful. Her name was Siyong.”
But at just four days old, Saly’s baby wouldn’t stop crying and wouldn’t breastfeed.
Her mother and aunt tried to get her to a hospital but halfway there, Saly’s daughter died. When her mother and aunt returned with the news, Saly was inconsolable.
“They came back to my house and told me my baby was already dead. I was so sad I had lost my baby.
“My husband had bought clothes for our baby. When she died, I wrapped and packed those things with her.”
Although there was nobody there to make the diagnosis, Saly’s little girl probably died from an infection picked up during delivery.
Sterile equipment, and midwives trained to use it, can reduce the risk of infection during delivery and help save lives.
Delivery kits contain everything a midwife needs to keep mothers and babies safe during delivery.
Immediate newborn care training equips midwives to manage life-threatening complications.
Maternity rooms allow mothers to stay at health centres in the days before and after they give birth.
21-day clinical training courses prepare midwives so they can deliver a baby safely.
Save the Children is working in communities around the world to stop preventable newborn deaths – but we need your help to do it.