Prematurity or being born too soon, before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy is the world’s single biggest cause of newborn death, and the second leading cause of all child deaths, after pneumonia. Many of these babies die within a few days after birth, many in course of their childhood and many others who survive face a lifetime disability, at a huge cost to family and the nation.
Bangladesh being among the top 10 countries with the greatest numbers (424,100) of preterm births, is facing the tough challenges to improve survival of the large number of these premature babies. The number is increasing along with the increase of global incidence of preterm birth, making prematurity an urgent priority for reaching Millenium Development Goal-4 (MDG-4) of reducing under 5 mortality by two-thirds within 2015.
In order to bring attention to the global challenge of preterm birth, second World Prematurity Day is being observed worldwide today and for the first time in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Neonatal Forum, Bangladesh Perinatal Society, ICDDR,B, WHO, Unicef and SNL & MCHIP programme of Save the Children, have jointly organised a seminar today at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) to raise awareness about prematurity highlighting the burden of preterm birth, informing on simple, proven cost-effective solutions, and invoking compassion for families who have experienced preterm birth.
Dr Sayed Rubayet, Senior Manager of Saving Newborn Lives (SNL) and Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) of Save the Children pointed out that prematurity is the biggest threat to newborn survival in Bangladesh. The challenges are huge but there are proven and cost-effective solutions to meet them. Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) where the infant is held skin-to-skin on the mother's chest to keep warm can reduce the death by half in these babies specially those having low birth weight with almost no cost.
Preventing infections with proper and timely use of antibiotics and providing steroid injections to mother at risk of having premature labour are some inexpensive solutions to improve survival.
Creating mass awareness and simple training of healthcare workers to deal with premature babies are also important to save millions of newborn from early grave.