Preterm birth is the leading cause of death among children under the age of five

Friday, 18/11/2022 10:20
(CPV) - November 17th 2022 marks World Prematurity Day, an opportunity to raise awareness on preterm birth challenges and shine a light on the risks and impacts faced by preterm infants and their families.

Preterm birth is the leading cause of death among children under the age of five. Every year an estimated 15 million babies (about 1 in 10 children) are born prematurely worldwide. Viet Nam reports around 60 percent of infant deaths as neonatal deaths.

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Photo: UNICEF 

On World Prematurity Day 2022, UNICEF is promoting the Kangaroo Mother Care method under the theme – “A Parent’s embrace: a powerful therapy. Enable skin-to-skin contact from the moment of birth.“ Kangaroo Mother Care is a simple, free action taken immediately after birth to place the baby in the mother’s and later the father’s arms with skin-to-skin contact, which has extraordinary physical and mental health advantages for baby and parents. This method is particularly crucial in the care of preterm or low birth weight infants though continuous and prolonged skin-to-skin contact with a parent. Benefits of the Kangaroo Mother Care method include a reduced risk of neonatal mortality by 40 percent, improved thermal regulation, infection prevention, breastmilk let-down, as well as facilitation of physiological, behavioural, psychosocial, and neurodevelopmental effects. 

UNICEF Viet Nam works with the Ministry of Health to scale up newborn lifesaving interventions accross the country. “Our focus is on saving newborn lives, ensuring lifesaving interventions are practiced in all corners of Viet Nam. To achieve this, we support the health sector to develop national action plans on children’s healthcare and scale up interventions that contribute towards child mortality reduction,“ explained Maharajan Muthu, UNICEF Viet Nam Chief of Child Survival, Development and Environmental Programme. 

This approach includes working on guidelines on newborn and preterm/low birth weight infants care, training health workers and community workers on international best practices in this area, and reaching families and communities with relevant information about the care and nutrition of newborns and premature babies. “It is great news that around 100,000 babies in seven provinces have benefited from UNICEF-supported programmes providing early essential newborn care and Kangaroo Mother Care this year, as reported by the Maternal and Child Health Department of Ministry of Health,“ informed Muthu. 

Despite great achievements, the challenges faced by preterm babies and their families are not sufficiently known by the public and World Prematurity Day is an opportunity to highlight recommended practices for every health worker and parent to further reduce neonatal mortality, including enhanced early detection during pregnancy, promotion of innovative medical treatment options and parents‘ empowerment on their newborn-care roles. 

As in previous years, countless individuals, hospitals, social and mass media organizations, parental groups and governmental institutions are participating in World Prematurity Day activities in about 100 countries this week to raise awareness and spur actions to prevent preterm birth where possible, strengthen healthcare systems and save babies’ lives.

With support from UNICEF’s dedicated partner Kimberly-Clark Huggies, a special event in Ho Chi Minh City was conducted to mark this year’s World Prematurity Day. Organized by the Department of Maternal and Child Health of the Ministry of Health, UNICEF Viet Nam and Tu Du Maternity Hospital, this event honored and recognized the contributions of health workers who are devoted to newborn care, especially low-birth weight and preterm babies.

Khac Kien

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