Every minute, hundreds of mothers around the world give birth. They all feel the stress and joy of being a new mum but the challenges they face are dramatically different.
Take a look at what it’s like to have a child in 14 different countries around the world.
Avalon went into labour during a cyclone in Fiji
When Cyclone Winston hit Fiji, expecting mother Avalon Buksh was just two weeks shy of her due date. As her family of eight prepared for the strongest storm to ever reach land in the Southern Hemisphere, she asked her husband: “what if I go into labour during the cyclone?”
Sure enough, her twins Gina and Tina arrived as the cyclone’s vicious winds reached their hometown of Nadi. They were born on a day when almost half the population - including 120,000 children - was in dire need of emergency assistance.
In the aftermath of the cyclone, UNICEF gave mothers like Avalon the expert advice, supplies and support they needed to see their newborns through the tough time.
Rojina gave birth in the middle of Nepal’s earthquakes
17-year-old Rojina was lying in the delivery room of a remote village, preparing to give birth to her first child when the walls started to shake. One of the biggest moments of her life was thrown into chaos by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Against all odds, Rojina gave birth safely.
The baby's name is Himal, but his village has come to know him as Bhukampa Bahadur: literally, 'earthquake brave'. "They come here every day just to see him, hoping that he brings good luck to them," Rojina says.
Rojina’s community lost their health post that day but UNICEF soon set up a medical tent so life-saving medical work could continue. It allowed baby Himal to get the health care he needed during the crucial first months of his life.
Marie Michelle’s hospital in Haiti had no incubators for her premature baby
Globally, 2.4 million children died in the first month of life in 2020 – approximately 6,500 neonatal deaths every day. The tragedy is that these deaths are largely preventable with simple, low-cost interventions during delivery and in the vulnerable days and weeks that follow.
Marie Michelle gave birth prematurely with no access to an incubator but was told to wrap her newborn close to her chest using 'kangaroo care', a skin-to-skin technique introduced to her hospital by UNICEF. As a baby snuggles against their Mum, their body temperature stabilises, their heart rate steadies and they begin to breathe more easily.
Nirvana held her baby girl tight in Croatia
UNICEF takes proven methods that save children’s lives and uses them across the 190 countries we work in. From Haiti to Croatia, we’re helping parents who can’t access an incubator for their premature baby with skin-to-skin kangaroo care. Nirvana’s daughter was born early in Croatia, where UNICEF supplies all neonatal intensive care units around the country with everything parents need for kangaroo care.
Aisha had help delivering at home in Ethiopia
Like most mums in rural Ethiopia, Aisha gave birth at home with the help of a traditional midwife. Too many children across the country don’t reach their fifth birthday but UNICEF was there to protect her baby from deadly disease with her first vaccinations.
Tasillimia’s little one was born early in Samoa
Trained doctors and midwives can be the difference between life and death for premature babies. Mativa was born early in Samoa but with the help of health professionals, he survived the riskiest time in his life - his first 28 days.
Binta’s twins were born amidst Boko Haram’s violence in Lake Chad
Pregnancy should be a time of joy and happiness but for women who have been forced from their homes by conflict or crisis, it is also a time of great danger.
Binta and her family fled their home in north-eastern Nigeria when her village was targeted by Boko Haram.
“On the morning of the attack, we fled to the boats and went to Chad. I was close to giving birth but I had no idea that they were twins. I had to go to the hospital to give birth. I was very afraid of losing them.”
"Today I'm fine, and when I look at my little twins, healthy, I feel blessed. We are all survivors here."
Abo’s daughter was born on the run from shelling in Yemen
All fathers want to keep their children safe but Abo had it harder than most. Little Aisha was born into one of the most dangerous places to be a child: an active conflict zone in Yemen.
“When the rocket shelling was heavy, I had to rescue my family from Malla,” he says.
“We fled in a neighbour’s car until we reached to a school where we took shelter. My wife, who was eight months pregnant, went into labour and thank God she delivered safely. Every time I look at baby Aisha in the eyes I say, ‘may your coming bring peace’.”
Alice’s baby was born with microcephaly after a Zika outbreak in Brazil
“Towards the end of my pregnancy, they told me my son had a problem in his head, a calcification,” remembers Alice*, a 15-year-old mother from Brazil. “Then, when he was born I learned he had microcephaly.”
“Then they asked if I had Zika and I didn’t even know what that was.”
“Now I will take care of him, which is what is important. I need to be very responsible. Sometimes I don’t even sleep. I have stopped studying. I intended to get back, but with all his treatments… it would be very complicated, very intense.”
UNICEF is working in 35 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean to control the spread of Zika Virus, limit its impact on children and their families and help drive the development of rapid diagnostics and vaccines.
Yajaira’s newborn faced the Ecuador earthquake in the first hours of her life
Yajaira lost her house in the strongest earthquake to hit Ecuador in decades. But the young mum was still thankful. "I feel good,” she says. “My daughters and family are safe.”
The night almost turned to tragedy for the family. Yajaira had just given birth to little Milagro and as the pair rested in bed at home, the ground began to shake violently beneath them.
"It was totally dark. The power went out. It was terrible. The wall almost fell on Milagro"
They made it through the night safely but Milagro and 250,000 children like her needed urgent assistance. Knowing that Ecuador is prone to earthquakes and other natural disasters, UNICEF had already pre-positioned water kits, tents and other emergency supplies in the region, ready to meet the immediate needs of the children. Within hours, children were protected from danger and disease with clean water, mosquito nets and tarps for shelter.
Nadya gave birth after a gruelling journey from Syria
Yusuf was born against all odds. His mum, Nadya, was living in Syria when her town was attacked and she was forced to make the four-day walk to Turkey in the late stages of her pregnancy. “I sank down when we got to the border,” she said. “They took me to hospital in an ambulance immediately and I gave birth there."
UNICEF is lending a hand with nappies, clothing and other essentials for refugee babies, and we’re giving mothers like Nadya the safe spaces and guidance they need to care for their newborns.
This mum in Guinea didn’t have a safe place to feed her baby
Every mother deserves a clean, comfortable place to deliver, recover from childbirth and get to know their child for the first time. But when no beds were available in the delivery room at her clinic in Guinea, this mother was forced to breastfeed her newborn baby on the floor.
Agnes’s baby didn’t get a chance
“My mind will not settle. I keep on crying, thinking of the baby, thinking of my future, how it could be,” says Agnes. The 17-year-old was forced from her home in South Sudan by extreme violence and food crisis and then, on the journey to safety, her newborn baby contracted malaria. It was deadly.
In the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda, Agnes is safe from danger but she’s alone, in mourning and has little motivation to go on. “I left school. I did not sit for [the] test for this first term. These days I’m sitting at home,” she says.
UNICEF is helping girls like Agnes in the camp start to rebuild from the chaos of fleeing South Sudan. We’re helping them sing, express their feelings and build up a support system in the camp. It’s a long process to recovery but UNICEF will be there every step of the way.
Miriam had big dreams for her newborn in Malawi
Miriam shared this intimate moment after giving birth prematurely in Malawi. “When my baby rested on my chest, skin to skin, I felt his heartbeat and he felt mine. I can never forget this moment. I want him to be a lawyer to defend the defenceless.”
In this priceless moment, Miriam also shared a sobering decision. The new mum was planning not to name her baby for six weeks because she’d seen too many other children who hadn’t made it that far.
We can do better for every mother and child. UNICEF wants all women to give birth safely and experience the joy of a new baby. We want them to be comfortable and supported as a new mum. And we want every mother to be able to name their baby on day one with confidence.
Help mothers and babies in danger
What happens in a child’s first days can shape their entire life. To give every child the best possible start, UNICEF needs to be there when an emergency strikes. We need to cross battle lines and climb mountains to reach children in the world’s most dangerous and remote communities. But we can’t do it alone. Help us reach children in danger with a small, ongoing donation.
UNICEF doesn’t receive any money from the UN. We rely on monthly donations from a passionate group of supporters called Global Parents. From right here in Australia, they help vaccinate newborns, stock maternity wards with essential supplies and help mums and babies survive in 190 countries.DONATE
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