About 15 million premature births are recorded each year, with Nigeria ranked 3rd on the list of countries with premature births with an estimated 871,000 babies born pre-term every year.
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, disclosed this yesterday at the occasion marking the World Prematurity and Pneumonia Day.
Also, as part of the efforts to save Newborn lives, Federal Ministry of Health launched three policy documents relating to Newborn Health. These are: Nigeria Every Newborn Action Plan, essential Newborn Care training package and National Chlorhexidine Scale up Strategy document.
Speaking at the occasion, Prof. Adewole reveals that babies born too soon have a higher risk of death that is thirteen times higher than babies born at term.
He also disclosed that one of every three newborn deaths is attributable to complications of prematurity, while those who survive may face lifelong disabilities, including learning, visual and hearing problems and their quality of life is greatly affected.
The minister, however, said it was not all doom and gloom as recent survey has shown a reduction in under-five mortality rates from 157/1000 lives births in 2008 to 128/1000 in 2013.
He said: “Globally, about 15 million babies are born prematurely each year, Nigeria being the 3rd largest contributor to this number has an estimated 871,000 babies born preterm every year.
“Babies born too soon have a higher risk of death that is thirteen times higher than babies born at term. Thus, one of every three newborn deaths is attributable to complications of prematurity. Those who survive may face lifelong disabilities, including learning, visual and hearing problems and their quality of life is greatly affected.
“In the same vein, globally, Pneumonia follows closely neonatal causes as the next largest cause of under-five mortality and is the leading single disease cause of under-five deaths in Nigeria (WHO-CHERG, 2014). Pneumonia majorly affects the marginalized and the poorest children, accounting for 18% of cause of death in under-fives, about one million deaths among children annually and more than 2500 children per day under the age of five suffering from complications resulting from pneumonia. Evidence has shown that simple practices such as early and exclusive breastfeeding, vaccination, hand washing with soap and water as well as low level of exposure to greenhouse gases are protective against the development of pneumonia.
“It is however not all doom and gloom. Results from the 2013 NDHS indicate an 18% reduction in under-five mortality rates from 157/1000 live births in 2008 to 128/1000 live births in 2013. Commendable as this may seem, we are mindful that additional efforts are required to further crash the mortality rates and reduce preventable deaths from prematurity and pneumonia to the barest minimum.”
He also stressed that “the Ministry has not relented in her efforts to reduce preventable deaths of her newborns and children since the last commemoration but has achieved some milestones.”
To tackle prematurity issues, the minister said ” it is important to promote essential care during childbirth and in the postnatal period for every mother and baby, including antenatal corticosteroids (given to pregnant women at risk of preterm labour to strengthen the babies’ lungs), kangaroo mother care which provide thermal care via skin-to-skin contact for the baby and support breastfeeding (particularly, exclusively, for the first six months of life), and antibiotics to treat newborn infections.”
The representatives of World Health Organization (WHO), Mr. Andrew Mbewe, assured the country of WHO continuous support in the fight to eradicate pneumonia.
He said already, WHO has helped in building capacity and also supply commodity in communities across the country.
Mbewe also revealed that the international Organisation have almost more than 1000 community response persons treating children with pneumonia in some states of the country.
On his part, Representative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Dr. Joseph Monehi, who confirmed the decline in mortality rate in the country, said the agency would be working towards supporting local manufacturer in producing medicine to combat pneumonia in the country.