United for Little Giants conference
Minister Kisić, Ms. Bikicki Ivezić (president of the Association Mali Div), dear professionals and parents,
it is my great pleasure to open this important conference on such a touching topic.
We are approaching November 17th, World Prematurity Day. This is another good opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges of preterm birth and the risks and consequences faced by preterm infants and their families.
We all know the benefits of the benefits of skin-to-skin care for preterm and underweight infants. And still implementing family-centered care in neonatal unit as a common practice has been a challenge globally. Only a few countries have successfully standardized family-centered care. This means that this simple, but effective method is unavailable to many families who need it.
Globally, preterm birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five. In fact, each year about 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely. That’s 1 in 10 children!
In Serbia, every year around 4,500 babies – that’s between 5% and 7% of children – are born three or more weeks prematurely, which makes them especially vulnerable, not only in the first days after birth but potentially throughout their lives.
We know, and science has confirmed this, that a parent’s embrace is a powerful form of therapy. That’s why enabling skin-to-skin contact from the moment of birth is crucial! This kind of contact leads to better health and developmental outcomes, and a reduced risk of neonatal mortality by 40%.
Skin-to-skin intervention is more than a procedure to be applied in neonatal unit care. It is a philosophy and approach that allows mothers and fathers to take a central role in their own and their baby’s care.
This approach envisions that mothers, newborns, and families form an inseparable center around which the entire maternal newborn service delivery is organized.
It requires an integrated and intersectoral response and cross-life cycle support to be provided to parents and children, who must be at the center of the health, social protection, and education systems.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only further emphasized the need to improve the conditions for the care of premature babies. UNICEF and the Government Republic of Serbia will continue to work together to create the best conditions for every child and to ensure that parents are part of their child’s life since the very first moment.
UNICEF is also looking forward to partnering on this important task with the Ministry of Family Welfare and Demography and the Mali div association. We will work to bring together hospitals, NGOs, parent groups, governmental institutions, and individuals so that we can save the lives of prematurely born children and help them thrive.
And finally, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate every little giant who has fought an important battle in the first days of his or her life, but also to remind us all that behind every little giant is a big giant – his or her parent!
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/serbia