Geneva, Oct 6 (EFE).- An estimated 13.4 million babies, accounting for one in 10 births worldwide, are born prematurely every year before completing 37 weeks of pregnancy, a problem heavily impacting their health and survival chance, a new study by the United Nations said on Friday.
In 2020, an estimated 13.4 million babies were born prematurely, with nearly one million of them dying from preterm birth complications, said the study, carried out by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine based on data collected between 2010 and 2020.
“Since prematurity is the leading cause of death in children’s early years, there is an urgent need to strengthen both care for preterm babies as well as prevention efforts – particularly maternal health and nutrition – so as to improve childhood survival,” the report underlined.
The study identifies poor maternal health and malnutrition, adolescent pregnancy, infections and pre-eclampsia as the leading causes for high preterm birth rates worldwide.
It underlined that the children who survive the preterm birth have a significantly higher likelihood of suffering major illnesses, disability and developmental delays, and even chronic diseases as adults like diabetes and heart conditions.
“Preterm babies are especially vulnerable to life-threatening health complications, and they need special care and attention,” said Anshu Banerjee, director of maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and ageing at WHO.
The report revealed that no region of the world has significantly reduced rates of preterm births over the past decade, and the annual global rate of reduction in premature births between 2010 and 2020 was just 0.14 percent.
As per the report, around 65 percent of preterm births in 2020 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, where over 13 percent of all babies were born prematurely.
According to the study, the premature birth rates in the worst-affected countries – Bangladesh (16.2%), Malawi (14.5%) and Pakistan (14.3%) – are three or four times higher than those in the least affected countries – Serbia (3.8%), Moldova (4%) and Kazakhstan (4.7%).
The experts pointed out that the preterm birth is not solely a concern in low and middle-income countries, but high premature birth rates are also observed in some high-income countries, including Greece (11.6%) and the United States (10%). EFE