A newborn in Afghanistan, which has the 6th highest rate of babies dying on their first day of life. Photo: Getty.
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Why are one million babies a year dying in their first day of life?

The first 24 hours in a baby's life are the most dangerous, but newborn deaths have been under-researched and neonatal care is under-funded.

The first day of a baby’s life is the most dangerous. According to a report published by Save the Children today, one million newborns a year die in their first day of life. Another 2.9 million annually die within their first 28 days. And 1.2 million newborns die during labour. The charity believes that two million of these deaths are preventable, and if healthcare services were more equally distributed, this would reduce newborn mortality by 38 per cent.

These statistics make for depressing reading, but they are very significant. Traditionally, international aid agencies and charities have focussed on reducing infant mortality, which is usually defined as cutting down the number of deaths in children under five. Reducing infant mortality was one of the Millennium Development Goals pledged by the UN and signatory states in 2000, and since 1990 the number of children who do not make it to their fifth birthday has halved – although 18,000 children under five die each day from preventable illnesses.

Save the Children’s research however focuses specifically on the first month of life, and so highlights the important role that midwives can play in infant survival. Conventional statistics on infant mortality don’t count the 1.2 million babies that die during labour  - but these deaths are too numerous to ignore.

The best way of preventing the death of newborns is to ensure that women are looked after by skilled birth professionals – especially if they are trained in basic techniques like neonatal resuscitation and can advise on basic newborn care –  but each year 40 million women give birth without one, and two million of these will give birth completely alone. In Guinea, Nigeria, Somalia and Sierra Leone there are fewer than 2 doctors, nurses or other medical professionals per 10,000 people – but the critical threshold is considered to be 23. It’s no surprise then that together with Pakistan (which tops the list) these are the five countries where babies are most likely to die in childbirth or on their first day of life.

The positive from Save the Children’s report – if you can consider it that – is that the charity estimates that increasing health expenditure by $5 per person could prevent 32 million stillbirths, and save the lives of 147 million children and 5 million women by 2035. The biggest barrier isn’t financial: it’s finding the political will and commitment. 

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

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Hate Brexit Britain? 7 of the best places for political progressives to emigrate to

If you don't think you're going to get your country back, time to find another. 

Never mind the European Union, the UK is so over. Scotland's drifting off one way, Northern Ireland another and middle England is busy setting the clocks back to 1973. 

If this is what you're thinking as you absentmindedly down the last of your cheap, import-free red wine, then maybe it's time to move abroad. 

There are wonderful Himalayan mountain kingdoms like Bhutan, but unfortunately foreigners have to pay $250 a day. And there are great post-colonial states like India and South Africa, but there are also some post-colonial problems as well. So bearing things like needing a job in mind, it might be better to consider these options instead: 

1. Canada

If you’re sick of Little England, why not move to Canada? It's the world's second-biggest country with half the UK's population, and immigrants are welcomed as ‘new Canadians’. Oh, and a hot, feminist Prime Minister.

Justin Trudeau's Cabinet has equal numbers of men and women, and includes a former Afghan refugee. He's also personally greeted Syrian refugees to the country. 

2. New Zealand 

With its practice of diverting asylum seekers to poor, inhospitable islands, Australia may be a Brexiteer's dream. But not far away is kindly New Zealand, with a moderate multi-party government and lots of Greens. It was also the first country to have an openly transexual mayor. 

Same-sex marriage has been legal in New Zealand since 2013, and sexual discrimination is illegal. But more importantly, you can live out your own Lord of the Rings movie again and again. As they say, one referendum to rule them all and in the darkness bind them...

3. Scandinavia

The Scandinavian countries regularly top the world’s quality of life indices. They’re also known for progressive policies, like equal parental leave for mothers and fathers. 

Norway ranks no. 2 of all the OECD countries for jobs and life satisfaction, Finland’s no.1 for education, Sweden stands out for health care and Denmark’s no. 1 for work-life balance. And the crime dramas are great.

Until 24 June, as an EU citizen, you could have moved there at the drop of a hat. Now you'll need to keep an eye on the negotiations. 

4. Scotland

Scottish voters bucked the trend and voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union. Not only is the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament a woman, but 35% of MSPs are women, compared to 29% of MPs.

If you're attached to this rainy isle but you don't want to give up the European dream, catch a train north. Just be prepared to stomach yet another referendum before you claw back that EU passport. 

5. Germany

The real giant of Europe, Germany is home to avant-garde artists, refugee activists and also has a lot of jobs (time to get that GCSE German textbook out again). And its leader is the most powerful woman in the world, Angela Merkel. 

Greeks may hate her, but Merkel has undoubtedly been a crusader for moderate politics in the face of populist right movements. 

6. Ireland

It's English speaking, has a history of revolutionary politics and there's always a Ryanair flight. Progressives though may want to think twice before boarding though. Despite legalising same-sex marriage, Catholic Ireland has some of the strictest abortion laws of the western world. 

A happier solution may be to find out if you have any Irish grandparents (you might be surprised) and apply for an Irish passport. At least then you have an escape route.

7. Vermont, USA

Let's be clear, anywhere that is considering a President Trump is not a progressive country. But under the Obama administration, it has made great strides in healthcare, gay marriage and more. If you felt the Bern, why not head off to Bernie Sanders' home state of Vermont?

And thanks to the US political system, you can still legally smoke cannabis (for medicinal reasons, of course) in states like Colorado.