Pacific Leaders Call On Villages Of Supporters To Prevent Rising Infant Deaths

Published: Fri 3 Dec 2021 06:44 AM
A growing cross-section of community organisations and researchers are calling on Pacific peoples to rally around parents of newborns ahead of Safe Sleep Day on Friday 3 December.
My Baby’s Village is an initiative led by the Pacific Infant Care Collective that aims to ensure Pacific parents of newborns have all the support they need to keep their baby safe.
SUDI (Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy) describes when a baby dies from an unexplained cause or by accidental and preventable circumstances.
The call for more support follows a spike in unexplained deaths among infants in 2020 across Tamaki Makaurau, Auckland. Provisional data shows approximately half of the region’s 20 possible SUDI deaths were Pacific tamariki.
New Zealand Police National Partnerships Manager for Pacific Peoples Superintendent Fata Willi Fanene says it was clear that action needed to be taken.
“The call for more support follows stubbornly high rates of Pacific infant SUDI across Tamaki Makaurau, Auckland over the last decade.”
“Pacific people make up almost 15 percent of Tamaki Makarau’s population yet Pacific babies make up 40 to 50 percent of SUDI deaths in Auckland each year, with most in deprived areas.”
Fanene says in Pacific culture, children are a gift from God.
“We have a responsibility to do all we can to ensure their safety at all times. That includes when they’re sleeping.”
Moana Research Chief Executive Officer Jacinta Fa’alili-Fidow says the situation is preventable.
“Traditionally, the focus has been on providing safe sleep devices but this wasn’t enough. We’ve found, when you look at the causes of death, two thirds of those families had a sleep device in their home.
“It shows that just handing over a safe sleep device isn’t going to prevent all SUDI deaths. There are lots of different causes and there has to be some changes in our systems as well.”
Fa’alili-Fidow says the initiative is not in lieu of existing messages on SUDI prevention.
“We really want this to be as collective as possible. There are many great activities out there and providers are doing a wonderful job delivering the activities they’re being tasked to deliver.
KidzFirst Consultant Paediatrician Dr Teuila Percival has long recognised the preventable nature of infant outcomes including SUDI and continues to advocate for more meaningful approaches.
“We recognise the importance of a holistic, family-centred approach that combines the physical, environmental, economic and wellbeing needs of babies and young children.”
It’s also a challenge to community organisations to make sure their messages are tailored to their families, says Percival.
“It’s really tough to reach out as a mother and we don’t make it easy for a lot of mothers. They don’t have as much time to focus on their babies as they used to so this is a call to families and networks to identify families who do need support and help.”
Ministry of Social Development (MSD) General Manager Pacific and Community Capability Serena Curtis is hopeful that being involved at the beginning of a family’s journey will improve outcomes for fanau.
“It is imperative parents have the full support they need on their parent journey pre and post birth,” says Curtis.
“Every child is precious and we need to urgently rally together as a village to be advocates and champions of parents with newborns.
“We need to fully understand all the factors that may have contributed to these unexplained and preventable deaths, so agencies like us can play our part to ensure parents get the timely help they need.”
Fanene agrees: “Solutions are with the community. As government organisations it’s our role to provide support for our communities to realise those solutions.”
Learn more at
Participating partners of the Pacific Infant Care Collective
My Baby’s Village Campaign Stories
My Baby’s Village Campaign Resources
Follow My Baby’s Village on Facebook and Instagram

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