Millions die globally due to premature births

27 November 2019 | Health

Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula says preterm births are among the top killers of children under five years old worldwide.

Shangula said this on the occasion of the commemoration of World Premature Day at Oshakati in the Oshana Region recently.

He noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has it that an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm every year around the world.

“This means one in ten of all babies born are born too soon. Sadly, one million premature babies die every year around the world, according to WHO statistics,” Shangula said.

He said it is a source of concern that the rates of preterm births are rising in most countries.

According to him, prematurity is also a problem in Namibian communities.

“The three top causes of newborn deaths in Namibia are birth asphyxia, prematurity and sepsis/infection. Of these, more than 50% are due to prematurity,” stressed Shangula.

Many preterm babies who survive, he said, develop challenging congenital disabilities leading to poor quality of life, which include cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, blindness, deafness, and behavioural problems.

He further stated that individuals with such severe disabilities require huge resources to receive quality care.

“This means financial resources, properly equipped facilities, adequate numbers of well-trained health workers, special medications and extra care from their family,” Shangula said.

In a speech read on her behalf, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) representative to Namibia, Rachel Odede, said maternal deaths, stillbirths and neonatal deaths are of major concern to the government of Namibia.

She indicated that in Namibia, 54% of neonatal deaths are due to prematurity and low birth weight.

“Protecting our babies means ensuring proper care as these deaths are preventable,” Odede said.

'Born too Soon: the right care, at the right time, in the right place' was the theme of World Prematurity Day 2019.