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Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates

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Breaking the Silence Around Stillbirths

Posted: 04/18/11 01:38 PM ET

I talk a lot about the amazing progress the world has made in child health, especially that we have dramatically reduced the number of childhood deaths each year from 12 million to 8 million in the past 20 years alone. A lot of that progress has come about because we as a world simply decided that the death of these children was unacceptable. We knew we had the proper tools, but it took our voices to raise the issue and the collective will to do something about it. Last week, with the release of a seminal publication on the topic, an equally important challenge stands before us -- stillbirths -- and it's again time to break our silence and our complacency.

Breaking the Silence Around Stillbirths

Stillbirth, the death of a baby in utero during the third trimester or during childbirth, is a devastating occurrence for families. The numbers are striking -- 2.6 million stillbirths occur each year, and nearly half happen after the woman has gone into labor. Equally devastating for mothers is that oftentimes they must suffer through this tragedy alone, facing blame, isolation, and pressure to become pregnant again soon.

The landmark Lancet Stillbirth Series, released last week, features the incredible work of many foundation partners and does a remarkable job of bringing attention to the many layers of this complex issue.

But it also provides reason for hope. Besides the new analysis of the problem, the series highlights the fact that we can make a great deal of progress with existing solutions. We can effectively address stillbirths simply by strengthening our maternal, newborn and child health efforts -- the solutions for both turn out to be remarkably similar. When we focus on health initiatives that benefit both mothers and newborns, we prevent millions of stillbirths as well.

This month, groups will gather around the world from London to Geneva, South Africa to New York to launch the series. Supporters include the numerous individuals and organizations that were involved in the series, but also many more highly committed and active parent groups.

I encourage you to add your voice to this movement. For only when we give voice to the voiceless will we see true progress and equity in our world.

 

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