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Health News of Thursday, 19 November 2015

Source: GNA

Ghana marks World Prematurity Day

About 140,000 babies are born prematurely before completing 37 weeks of pregnancy in Ghana out of which 8,400 of these preterm babies die even before reaching 30 days of their life.

Again, every day in Ghana, around 80 newborn babies die before reaching the first month of their life and this translates into one newborn dying every 15 minutes, amounting to a total of approximately 29,000 newborn deaths each year.

These were disclosed when the Ghana Health Service in collaboration with UNICEF and Paediatric Society of Ghana, jointly to mark the World Prematurity Day in Accra.

The day is marked every November 17 to generate global attention on the leading cause of deaths of children under five.

The Day offers an opportunity to focus on cost-effective solutions for prevention and care of preterm births, but also to offer support for families who have experienced a preterm birth.

Globally complications from preterm birth accounted for more than one million child deaths in 2015.

Speaking to mark the Day, Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses, Deputy Director of Reproductive and Child Health at the Ghana Health Service outlined the major causes of deaths as complications from preterm birth, complication during birth including breathing difficulties and infections. There are solutions to prevent and treat preterm birth complications.

“Now is the time to scale up quality care to all women and newborns for them to survive, thrive and contribute to society,” she said.

She noted that rapid progress is possible, if the right actions are taken, especially when applying an integrated strategy that links key interventions.

These strategies, she said, included prevention of adolescent pregnancy, care during pregnancy, skilled delivery, early initiation and exclusive breast feeding, and early postnatal care including Kangaroo Mother Care, as well as management of preterm complications.

Dr Sagoe-Moses called on Ghanaians to support parents of babies who are born premature, adding: “This is the time to do away with negative cultural practices that stigmatise such parents and make them feel that all preterm babies are doomed to die.”

Dr Ebenezer Badoe, President of Paediatric Society of Ghana said: “Every child has the right to the best start in life. They are defenseless and vulnerable. It is our responsibility to save them so that they become the healthy and productive citizens of our nation.”

He urged the society to demand for better maternal and newborn health care and a supportive environment for the rights of women and young children.

Dr Victor Ngongalah, Chief of Health and Nutrition in UNICEF, said Ghana has the means and solutions to address premature deaths, “but we need to translate these into action to save the lives of our precious babies”.

Dr Ngongalah urged the government, health professional organisations, civil society and families to act promptly to recognise preterm birth as one of the major drivers of newborn and under-five deaths.

The National Newborn Strategy and Action Plan clearly outline the roadmap that will bring change to the situation of the newborn. These interventions and solutions need the support of stakeholders to bring it to scale.

In September 2015, countries around the world committed to ending preventable newborn deaths by adopting the Sustainable Development Goals, by agreeing that “As the leading cause of under-five deaths, we must end preterm births and preventable deaths from related- complications”.

Although Ghana has progressed to reduce under-five child deaths, the country has not achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 target due in a large extent to the high number of deaths in babies below one month of age.

In Ghana the high adolescent pregnancy rates make it imperative to include promoting girls’ education and changing cultural norms to delay marriage and childbearing among the key strategies to prevent preterm deliveries.

Consolidated urgent actions are needed from health and non-health sectors to address the challenges.