To address the increase in prematurity death rate, an expert in neonatology, Prof. Beatrice Ezeaka, has recommended that the Federal, State, and Local Government as well as, all other stakeholders in the health sector must embark on intensive advocacy and awareness creation, in order to stem the tide across Nigeria.
Ezeaka said that the advocacy would assist couples and families to step up the preventive measures to avoid preterm births where possible, saying we need to stem it urgently.
The Consultant Neonatologist, who spoke at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, during an event to mark the 2021 World Prematurity Day (WPD), said that prematurity has continued to be a leading cause of deaths in children under five years old.
This year marked the 12 annual anniversary of WPD celebrated since Nov. 17, 2009 and the theme for 2021 commemoration is“Zero Separation. Act Now! Keep Parents and Babies Born Too Soon Together”.
Ezeaka, who is also the Head of Neonatal Unit of LUTH, hinted that annually, about 15 million babies were born preterm and the number continues to rise.
According to her, Nigeria has the highest number of newborn deaths in Africa and the second highest in the world; this must be prevented going forward.
She said that the direct causes of preterm births are not immediately identifiable in many instances but sizeable proportions are known and preventable.
Ezeaka said that trained manpower for the care of preterm birth and nutrition was key and remains a way of moving forward beyond the present state.
“Preterm births are better prevented through community education and better utilisation of antenatal care services. Prolonged skin-to-skin care (Kangaroo Mother Care) is an evidence-based low-cost innovation that is exceptionally effective.
“There is a great need for intensive advocacy and awareness creation for all stakeholders, government, health care workers, NGOs, communities, and families to take steps to prevent preterm births where possible.
“We need to support the care of such babies, improve health systems and save lives of the leaders of tomorrow,” the professor added.
Also speaking, the CEO of Studio 24 and Purple Baby Project Team Leader, Chris Oputa, said that preterm births had reduced in Nigeria through advocacy and awareness, adding technology is available to save preterm babies.
“A lot of training has to go on. There should be training on new technologies and safe practices in managing preterm babies. Everyone should get involved,” he said.
Oputa urged the media to be fully involved because they have a major role to play in the management of preterm births.