860,000 premature births recorded every year in Pakistan: Unicef


Pakistan will observe 6th annual World Prematurity Day to reaffirm its commitment towards reducing the number of preterm births in the country. According to an estimate, 860,000 premature births are recorded each year in Pakistan of which nearly 102,000 children die due to related complications, says Unicef.

According to a handout issued on Wednesday, globally, 15 million babies are born before time each year and over 1 million children die before their fifth birthday. Pakistan is ranked second among the top ten countries that account for nearly two-thirds of all deaths from preterm birth complications. Without a major push to reduce these deaths, it will not be possible to reach the Sustainable Global Goal, endorsed by 193 countries, to end all preventable newborn and child deaths by 2030.

The World Prematurity Day 2016 will highlight innovations that show the most promise in transforming the prevention, diagnosis, and management of preterm birth. While it provides an opportunity to call attention to the heavy burden of death and disability when a child is born too soon, it is also a chance to talk about solutions.

Unicef emphasises that preterm births and child deaths can be reduced by strengthening health policies and services as well as improving access and care for mothers and newborns. Although notable achievements have been made in the health sector, a lot more is needed in terms of the quality of care for women and newborns.

An important aspect of prevention of preterm birth is adequate maternal nutrition which is critical for fetal development. Women with low Body Mass Index or low pregnancy weight gain are at increased risk for preterm birth. There are other proven low-cost interventions that are especially effective for preterm babies. These include antenatal steroid injections given to mothers in preterm labor, Kangaroo Mother Care, a technique used to keep the new-born warm and support breast feeding. Good hygiene care can help prevent multiple infections while early initiation of breast feeding within the first hour can particularly help prevent deaths.