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UN agencies say one in 10 babies born prematurely in 2022



UN agencies say one in 10 babies born prematurely in 2022

The United Nations agencies said that an estimated 13.4 million babies were born early before 37 full weeks of pregnancy in 2020, which was around one in 10 of all live births.


The report was according to a detailed study published in the Lancet by authors from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF as well as the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


“Since prematurity is the leading cause of death in children’s early years, there is an urgent need to strengthen both care for preterm babies as well as prevention efforts.


“Particularly maternal health and nutrition so as to improve childhood survival.


“For those who live, preterm birth also significantly increases the likelihood of suffering major illnesses, disability and developmental delays, and even chronic diseases as adults like diabetes and heart conditions.


“As with other major trends relating to maternal health, no region of the world has significantly reduced rates of preterm births over the last decade.


“The annual global rate of reduction in preterm births between 2010 and 2020 was just 0.14 per cent,’” it said.


Dr Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at WHO said that preterm babies were especially vulnerable to life-threatening health complications and, thus need special care and attention.


Banerjee said that these numbers showed an urgent need for serious investment in services available to support them and their families as well as a greater focus on prevention.


He said that the main issue was ensuring access to quality health care before and during every pregnancy.


The report said that the national, regional, and global estimates of preterm births in 2020, with trends from 2010: a systematic analysis, provided global, regional and country estimates.


Similarly, trends for preterm births between 2010 and 2020 revealed large disparities between regions and countries.


It said that around 65 per cent of preterm births in 2020 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, where over 13 per cent of babies were born preterm.


The report listed the rates in the worst affected countries including Bangladesh 16.2 per cent, Malawi 14.5 per cent and Pakistan 14.3 per cent.


These were three or four times higher than those in the least affected countries like Serbia 3.8 per cent, Moldova 4 per cent and Kazakhstan 4.7 per cent.


According to it, preterm birth is not just an issue in low and middle-income countries, however, the data shows clearly that it affects families in all parts of the world.


The report said that the rates of 10 per cent or higher occurred in some high-income countries such as Greece 11.6 per cent and the United States of America 10 per cent.


“Maternal health risks, such as adolescent pregnancy, infections, poor nutrition, and pre-eclampsia, are closely linked to preterm births.


“Quality antenatal care is critical to detect and manage complications, to ensure accurate pregnancy dating through early ultrasound scans and if needed, to delay labour through approved treatments,” it said.

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