India among top 5 countries where babies born too soon: study

Source: The post is based on the article “India among top 5 countries where babies born too soon: study” published in Indian Express on 10th May 2023

What is the News?

WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund and Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) have released a report titled “Born too Soon: Decade of Action on Pre-term Birth”.

What are the key findings of the report?

An estimated 13.4 million babies were born pre-term in 2020, with nearly a million dying from pre-term complications. This is equivalent to around one in 10 babies. This indicates a “silent emergency” for children’s survival and health.

Note: Preterm births occur earlier than 37 weeks of an expected 40-week full-term pregnancy.

Almost half of all pre-term births in 2020 happened in five countries — India, Pakistan, Nigeria, China and Ethiopia.

In 2020, Bangladesh had the highest estimated pre-term birth rate (16.2 per cent), followed by Malawi (14.5 per cent) and Pakistan (14.4 per cent).

The total pre-term birth numbers for the five countries are alarming as India tops the list with 30.16 lakh births.

Note: A report published in 2022 in PloS-Global Public Health showed that West Bengal reported 16% of such preterm births, Tamil Nadu 14% and Gujarat 9%.

What are the leading causes of pre-term births?

The report found gaping inequalities related to race, ethnicity, income, and access to quality care, determine the likelihood of preterm birth, death, and disability, even in high-income countries.

Other factors are also making an impact such as air pollution is estimated to contribute to six million preterm births each year.

At the same time, nearly one in 10 preterm babies are born in the 10 most fragile countries affected by humanitarian crises.

What are the recommendations given by the report?

The report has called for a set of actions to save lives such as: boosting investments in newborn health, accelerating the implementation of national policies, integrating efforts across sectors, and supporting locally led innovation and research to support improvements in quality of care and equity in access.

Progress must also advance in prevention, which means every woman must be able to access quality health services before and during pregnancy to identify and manage risks.

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