NEW YORK, United States of America, November 17, 2015
World prematurity Day which is commemorated today is a key moment to generate global attention on the leading cause of deaths of children under 5. Globally complications from preterm birth accounted for more than 1 million child deaths in 2015. World Prematurity Day offers an opportunity to focus on cost-effective solutions for prevention and care of preterm births, but also to offer support for families who have experienced a preterm birth.
In September 2015, countries around the world committed to ending preventable newborn deaths by adopting the Sustainable Development Goals. As the leading cause of under-five deaths, we must end preterm births and preventable deaths from related- complications.
Although Ghana has progressed to reduce under-five child deaths, the country has not achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 target due in a large extent to the high number of deaths in babies below one month of age.
In Ghana, every day, around 80 newborn babies die before reaching the first month of their life. That means in every 15 minutes one newborn dies, amounting to a total of approximately 29,000 newborn deaths each year. The major causes of deaths are complications from preterm birth, complication during birth including breathing difficulties and infections. In Ghana, every year around 140,000 (14 percent) babies are born premature, that is before completing 37 weeks of pregnancy 8,400 of these preterm babies die even before reaching 30 days of their life. That means every hour one newborn baby dies because he or she was born premature.
There are solutions to prevent and treat preterm birth complications. Now is the time to scale up quality care to all women and newborns for them to survive, thrive and contribute to society.
Rapid progress is possible if the right actions are taken, especially when applying an integrated strategy that links key interventions. These include prevention of adolescent pregnancy, care during pregnancy, skilled delivery, early initiation and exclusive breast feeding and early postnatal care including Kangaroo Mother Care as well as management of preterm complications.
In Ghana the high adolescent pregnancy rates make it imperative to include promoting girls’ education and changing cultural norms to delay marriage and childbearing among the key strategies to prevent preterm deliveries.
Consolidated urgent actions are needed from health and non-health sectors to address the above challenges.
The Ghana Health Service, in collaboration with the Paediatric Society of Ghana and UNICEF is commemorating World Prematurity Day on 17 November and Dr. Isabella Sagoe-Moses, the Deputy Director of Reproductive and Child Health at the Ghana Health Service calls on Ghanaians to support parents of babies who are born premature. She says “It is time to do away with negative cultural practices that stigmatize such parents and make them feel that all preterm babies are doomed to die.”
Dr Ebenezer Badoe, President of Pediatric Society of Ghana also stated that, “Every child has the right to the best start in life. They are defenseless and vulnerable. It is our responsibility to save them so that they become the healthy and productive citizen of our nation”.
The Paediatric Society is urging the Ghanaian society to demand better maternal and newborn health care and a supportive environment for the rights of women and young children.
“We have the means and solutions but we need to translate these into action to save the lives of our precious babies,” said Dr. Victor Ngongalah Chief of Health and Nutrition in UNICEF, Dr. Ngongalah called government, health professional organizations, civil society and families to act promptly to recognize preterm birth as one of the major drivers of newborn and under-five deaths. Around 14 percent of under-five deaths in Ghana occur due to the complications of preterm births.
The National Newborn Strategy and Action Plan clearly outlines the roadmap that will bring change to the situation of the newborn. These interventions and solutions need the support of all stakeholders to bring it to scale.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)