ISLAMABAD: The United Nation International Chief Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has stressed over the need to reduction in premature births and early childhood death terming them necessary to achieve the global goal for health and well beings. 

Pakistan is observing the 6th annual World Prematurity Day on Thursday (tomorrow), to reaffirm its commitment towards reducing the number of preterm births in the country. According to an estimate of UNICEF, 860,000 premature births are recorded each year in Pakistan of which nearly 102,000 children die due to related complications.

Globally, fifteen million babies are born before time each year and over one million children die before their fifth birthday. Pakistan is ranked second among the top ten countries that account for nearly two-thirds of all deaths from preterm birth complications. Without a major push to reduce these deaths, it will not be possible to reach the Sustainable Global Goal, endorsed by 193 countries, to end all preventable newborn and child deaths by 2030.

The World Prematurity Day 2016 will highlight innovations that show the most promise in transforming the prevention, diagnosis, and management of preterm birth. While it provides an opportunity to call attention to the heavy burden of death and disability when a child is born too soon, it is also a chance to talk about solutions.

“The number of preterm births in Pakistan must be reduced, as these are one of the leading causes of death for children under five years of age. UNICEF in partnership with the Government of Pakistan is supporting efforts to reduce child morbidity and mortality. One example of our most recent initiatives is the establishment of a Kangaroo Mother Care model at a public hospital in Lahore where special care is provided to the preterm newborns. Kangaroo Mother Care is a technique used to keep the new-born warm and support breast feeding.”

“Good hygiene care can help prevent multiple infections while early initiation of breast feeding within the first hour can particularly help prevent deaths. The facility will also serve as a training resource centre to build the capacity of other Health Care providers and scale up similar initiatives in other provinces,” she adds.

UNICEF has emphasized that premature births and child deaths can be achieved by strengthening health policies and services as well as improving access and care for mothers and new-borns. Although notable achievements have been made in the health sector, a lot more is needed in terms of the quality of care for women and new-borns.

An important aspect of prevention of preterm birth is adequate maternal nutrition which is critical for foetal development. Women with low Body Mass Index or low pregnancy weight gain are at increased risk for preterm birth. There are other proven low-cost interventions that are especially effective for preterm babies.