GENEVA – At least 152 million vulnerable babies were born prematurely from 2010 to 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday.
According to a new report, preterm birth is the largest cause of child deaths, accounting for more than one-fifth of all deaths in children under the age of 5.
Preterm survivors may endure long-term health repercussions, including a greater risk of disability and developmental delays, the report found.
Based on the 2020 figures, an estimated 13.4 million babies were delivered prematurely with around 1 million dying as a result of preterm problems.
This equates to around one in every 10 babies delivered prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) worldwide, the report said.
Country of birth determines survivability
According to the report, only one in 10 extremely preterm babies –under 28 weeks of pregnancy– survive in low-income countries, compared to more than nine in 10 in high-income countries.
“Too often, where babies are born determines if they survive,” it said.
The report also stressed that Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have the highest rates of preterm birth, and preterm babies in these regions face the highest mortality risk. These two regions account for more than 65 percent of preterm births globally.
The research also underscored how conflict, climate change, environmental destruction, coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, and growing living costs pose new threats to women and babies worldwide.
Greater investment can save millions of babies
Dr. Joy Lawn, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said greater investment can save millions of vulnerable babies.
“Greater investment in the care of vulnerable newborns can save millions of families from heartbreak. More work is also needed to prevent preterm birth, which will also improve progress in reducing stillbirths and maternal deaths,” Lawn said.
“Together these twin tracks of preterm prevention and care will produce healthier individuals and societies to deliver on economic and social development,” she said. “Our next generation depends on us all acting now –the investment may not be small but the returns on this investment will be major for every country.” (Anadolu)
photo: file babies