By Duncan Mlanjira
A report from the Middle East indicates that Malawi tops the list of 10 countries with the highest rates of premature births per 100 live births.
This was disclosed during the commemoration of World Prematurity Day in Muscat, Oman on Thursday and confirmed by Malawi’s Dr. Grace Chiudzu, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The report done by Middle East journalist, Dr. Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui, says Malawi is rated at 18.1 preterm births per 100 births, and this is also confirmed by Dr. Chiudzu.
Malawi is followed by:
*Comoros: 16.7 preterm births per 100 births
*Equatorial Guinea: 16.5
Siddiqui reports that the day was observed by Oman’s Ministry of Health’s premier institution, Higher Institute of Health Specialties (HIHS) under Critical Care Nursing Paediatric and Neonatology Programme at the Grand Mall.
It was attended by many dignitaries including Her Highness Sayyida Hujaija bint Jaifer Al Said from the ruling royal house of the Sultanate of Oman.
Siddiqui writes: Prematurity birth is a serious health problem and a major cause of infant morbidity and mortality worldwide.
About 1 in 10 babies is born premature every year, out of a total 15 million preterm births. World Prematurity Day is celebrated every 17th November to raise awareness of the challenges and burden of preterm birth globally.
The first international awareness day for preterm birth on 17 November was created by European parent organizations in 2008. It has been celebrated as World Prematurity Day since 2011. It has since evolved into a worldwide annual observance.
Oman is making a significant contribution in overcoming this prematurity incidence with its state-of-the-art health infrastructure.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), ‘Preterm’ is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed.
There are sub-categories of preterm birth, based on gestational age:
*extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks)
*very preterm (28 to 32 weeks)
*moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks).
A determined effort is needed to save the preterm babies. If sufficient efforts are made, more than three quarters of premature babies can be saved with feasible, cost-effective care.
Dr. Chiudzu acknowledges that preterm birth is a complex issue and that currently she is pursuing a PhD on association of preterm birth and nutrition.
“I am trying to see if the risk of preterm birth is associated with micronutrients defiency prevalent in the country.”
She said there are two broad groups: spontaneous preterm birth whereby the birth occur on its own as well provider initiated preterm birth whereby the labour is induced or the Caesarian section is done to save the mothers life or the baby him/herself.
“The commonest cause is Hypertensive diseases in pregnancy. To date there is no definite cause of spontaneous birth.
“Various theories have been advanced. So considering that we don’t know the cause, it’s difficult to prevent it.”
She said Malawi Ministry of Health (MoH), which also observes the World Prematurity Day, is doing everything possible as solutions to the preterm babies such as:
*Use of steroids before they are born
*Use of antibiotics before they are born
*Transfer of risk mother to a center where the baby could be looked after
*antibiotics to treat newborn infections
*Kangaroo baby care which a natural system that the baby is carried by the mother with skin-to-skin contact and frequent breastfeeding.
These determined efforts needed to save the preterm babies are advocated during the commemoration of World Prematurity Day, as reported by Siddiqui.
For example, continuity of midwifery-led care in settings where there are effective midwifery services has been shown to reduce the risk of prematurity by around 24%.
Oman boasts of one of the best healthcare practices. There are awareness campaigns in Arabic and English for the citizens and the residents.
The HIHS’ event at the Grand Mall was a spectacular success. There were posters and presentations explaining the concept of prematurity.
The awareness programme was well appreciated by the visitors. It was a very mature event on the World Prematurity Day.
The dignitaries and a large number of visitors were received by Dr. Manal bint Abdul Majeed Al Zadjali, Dean, HIHS and Dr. Nasiha Al Braiki, Coordinator of the Critical Care Nursing Paediatric and Neonatalogy Programme.