World Prematurity Day 2023

UNICEF promotes essential newborn care for every baby everywhere

17 November 2023
World Prematurity Day 2023 - UNICEF promotes essential newborn care for every baby everywhere
World Prematurity Day 2023 - UNICEF promotes essential newborn care for every baby everywhere

Ha Noi, 17 November 2023 -- Today, the world celebrates World Prematurity Day, rallying under the theme Small Actions, BIG IMPACT: Immediate Skin-to-Skin Care for Every Baby, Everywhere. The Department of Maternal and Child Health of the Ministry of Health and UNICEF Viet Nam, with the support of Kimberly-Clarke, hosted special events in a number of provinces, including Lao Cai, Lai Chau, Dien Bien, Dak Nong, and Ho Chi Minh City to honor health workers' tireless efforts in providing newborn care, particularly to low-birth weight and preterm babies.

World Prematurity Day, observed annually on November 17, raises global awareness of the challenges for women and babies associated with preterm birth, and celebrates the lives of preterm infants. Preterm birth is a leading cause of death among children under five, with an estimated 15 million babies (one in ten) born prematurely worldwide every year [i]. In Viet Nam, premature deaths account for approximately 45 percent of all child mortality cases [ii]

World Prematurity Day is an opportunity to advocate for essential care for women and newborn care for every baby everywhere and to highlight the benefits of methods that save lives such as immediate skin-to-skin contact and Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). KMC emphasizes continuous and prolonged skin-to-skin contact between parent and infant, promotes breastfeeding, lowers stress levels, and strengthens family bonding. Recent studies have revealed that skin-to-skin contact can and should be initiated immediately after birth, even before the newborn is considered clinically stable. Such contact improves thermal regulation, prevents infection, stimulates breast milk production, and yields positive physiological, behavioral, psychosocial, and neurodevelopmental effects while reducing the risk of neonatal mortality by 40 per cent.

the Celebration of World Day for Premature Babies at Tu Du Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City.
Mr. Nguyen Huy Du, Maternal and Child Health Specialist, UNICEF Viet Nam, speaks at the Celebration of World Day for Premature Babies at Tu Du Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City.

Despite the evident advantages of skin-to-skin care, implementing KMC as a standard practice has faced challenges. It requires a shift from the traditional newborn care model, which often separates the mother and baby, especially in cases of preterm or low birth-weight infants. Today, overwhelming evidence supports a maternal-newborn care delivery model where mothers, newborns, and families are the central focus.

UNICEF Viet Nam works with the Ministry of Health to expand newborn lifesaving interventions, including KMC, across the country. "Our goal is to ensure lifesaving interventions reach every corner of Viet Nam. This involves developing national action plans on child healthcare, scaling up interventions that help reducing child mortality," explained Maharajan Muthu, UNICEF Viet Nam Chief of Child Survival, Development, and Environment.

The approach also includes developing guidelines for the care of newborns, particularly those born prematurely or with low birth weight, training health and community workers, and equipping families and communities with necessary information about newborn and premature baby care and nutrition. "We are pleased that in the first nine months of 2023, approximately 51,750 babies in seven provinces benefited from UNICEF-supported programs providing early essential newborn care and KMC, as reported by the Maternal and Child Health Department of the Ministry of Health." Muthu added.

World Prematurity Day is a crucial platform to raise awareness about preterm birth challenges and their consequences, promote early detection during pregnancy, advance medical treatments, empower parents, and reduce long-term impacts on children and their families.

Across nearly 100 countries, individuals, hospitals, NGOs, parent groups, and governmental institutions are participating in World Prematurity Day activities this week. Our collective efforts seek to raise awareness, drive action to prevent preterm births, improve healthcare systems, and ultimately save the precious lives of babies.

[i] World Health Organization, Children: improving survival and well-being, 8 Sep 2020,, last accessed 20 Oct 2023.

[ii], last accessed 20 Oct 2023.  

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