Together for babies born too soon - Caring for the future

17 November 2020
Baby Afaq at the hospital for a regular checkup
UNICEF/PAKISTAN/Adresh Laghari
Baby Afaq, born premature, at one and a half months. His mother, Komal Fahad has brought him in for his regular checkup with the doctors at the UNICEF-supported Kangaroo Mother Care Ward of the Services Institute of Medical Sciences (SIMS), Lahore.

Islamabad - 17 November 2020: On the World Preterm Day today, as the global community rallies around the theme for the year, “Together for babies born too soon – Caring for the future”, it is concerning to note that the existing rate of preterm births - 5 to 18 percent – is on the rise in most of the countries. 

Every year, an estimated 15 million babies in the world – one in every ten - are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death for children under five years of age.

In Pakistan, though collaborative efforts during last five years have helped reduce new born mortality from 55 to 42 deaths per 1,000 live births, losing that many precious lives is unacceptable and a matter of national concern.

“Active involvement with long, direct periods of care and the physical and emotional closeness of baby and parents during birth, delivery and hospitalisation can have great benefits on the short and long-term health of the baby,” says Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan. “Range of care during pregnancy, complete antenatal care, nutritious food, mental and psychosocial support to pregnant women and birth spacing can contribute to reduction in premature births.”   

“Evidence based, high-quality treatment and care provided in a timely, people centred manner and by a well-trained, specialized multidisciplinary team and with safe staffing levels improve health outcomes of hospitalised babies. Provision of specific training and supportive supervision to advance skills and competencies, including safe use of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and IPC (Infection, Prevention and Control) facilities is extremely important,” she adds. 

As the world is faced with the challenge of dealing with COVID-19 pandemic, World Health Organization recommends that healthcare providers should enable mothers and infants to remain together and practice skin-to-skin contact, and rooming-in throughout the day and night, especially straight after birth during the establishment of breastfeeding, whether or not the mother or child has suspected, probable, or confirmed COVID-19.

UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and provincial health departments has supported establishment of 17 Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) centres across the country (11 in Punjab, 3 in Sindh, 1 in KP, 1 in AJK and 1 in ICT). It has provided all the necessary equipment and materials to help train staff from Gynae/Obstetric and Neonatology units on Kangaroo Mother Care. KMC is one of the best options to provide care for premature babies in low income countries.

UNICEF emphasises that high quality and affordable Universal Health Care before, during and after childbirth for all women and babies can prevent many maternal and new born deaths. Good hygiene can help to prevent multiple infections while early initiation of breast feeding within the first hour can particularly help prevent deaths.

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Abdul Sami Malik
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Pakistan
Tel: +92-300-855-6654
Tel: +92-51-209-7811

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