Newborn mortality declines from 55 to 42 deaths per 1,000 live births
PESHAWAR: The global community rallies around the theme World Preterm Day for the year, ‘Together for babies born too soon – Caring for the Future’, but it is concerning to note that the existing rate of preterm births – 5 to 18 per cent – is on the rise in most of the countries. According to the United Nations (UN) Information Centre press release, every year, an estimated 15 million babies in the world are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death for children under five years of age. In Pakistan, collaborative efforts during last five years have helped reduce new-born mortality from 55 to 42 deaths per 1,000 live births, but it would be said that losing that many lives is still unacceptable and a matter of national concern. “Active involvement with long, direct periods of care and the physical and emotional closeness of baby and parents during birth, delivery and hospitalisation can have great benefits on the short and long-term health of the baby,” says UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Aida Girma. “Range of care during pregnancy, complete antenatal care, nutritious food, mental and psychosocial support to pregnant women and birth spacing can contribute to a reduction in premature births,” she added. “Evidence-based, high-quality treatment and care provided in a timely, people-centred manner and by a well-trained, specialised multidisciplinary team and with safe staffing levels improve health outcomes of hospitalised babies. Provision of specific training and supportive supervision to advance skills and competencies, including safe use of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and IPC (Infection, Prevention and Control) facilities is extremely important,” said Girma. As the world is faced with the challenge of dealing with Covid-19 pandemic, World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that healthcare providers should enable mothers and infants to remain together throughout the day and night. It stressed that this is especially important right after birth and during the establishment of breastfeeding. UNICEF, in collaboration with the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and provincial health departments, has supported the establishment of 17 Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) centres across the country. There are 11 in Punjab, three in Sindh, one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), one in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and one in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). It has provided all the necessary equipment and materials to help train staff from Gynae/Obstetric and Neonatology units on Kangaroo Mother Care. KMC is one of the best options to provide care for premature babies in low-income countries. UNICEF emphasises that high quality and affordable Universal Health Care before, during and after childbirth for all women and babies can prevent many maternal and new-born deaths. Good hygiene can help to prevent multiple infections while early initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour can particularly help prevent deaths. - PPI m