Beijing, 17 November 2016 – Globally, prematurity is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5 - 15 million babies are born preterm and more than a million die as a result every year. Preterm births are defined as babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. Babies who survive often have lifelong health problems such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities. Preventing pre-term babies is the first goal; ensuring the right interventions and support at birth, including postnatal monitoring and breastfeeding, is a second important goal.
Low birthweight is sometimes, but not always, linked to premature delivery and also carries risks of premature mortality and morbidity. Low birthweight is defined as a weight of less than 2,500 grams, irrespective of gestational age.
Globally, there are 15 countries that account for two thirds of all preterm births, China ranks No.2 after India with an estimated 1.2 million premature babies are born every year.
“Addressing premature delivery and low birth weight are part of China’s National Child Survival Strategy. Improving knowledge and awareness of health workers as well as parents is critically important for the survival of these newborns,” said Robert Scherpbier, Chief of Health and Nutrition & Water, Environment and Sanitation at UNICEF China.
Preterm birth and low birthweight occur for a variety of reasons. Most happen spontaneously, but some are due to early induction of labour or caesarean birth, whether for medical or non-medical reasons. Common causes of preterm birth and low birth weight include multiple pregnancies, infections and chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure; however, often no cause is identified. There could also be a genetic influence.
Simple and affordable solutions can save more than 75 per cent of the preterm babies die each year. Access to family planning, improving health before pregnancy and eliminating early elective births will prevent many preterm births. Cost-effective, proven interventions also exist to minimize and treat preterm birth complications during labour. And providing care for the preterm and low birthweight babies reduces preterm mortality.
“On World Prematurity Day, I would like to advocate for and raise awareness to preterm and low-birthweight babies’ survival and development as we strive to improve women’s and children’s health. We know what to do. Let us change the future for millions of babies born too soon, for their mothers and families, and indeed for entire country. Enabling infants to survive and thrive is an imperative for building the future we want.
Intensifying our focus on prematurity will sustain gains in child survival, accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, and help lay the groundwork for ending all preventable deaths of women and children by 2030,” said Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative to China.
Note: World Prematurity Day, November 17 2016, is part of a global effort to raise awareness of the deaths and disabilities due to prematurity and the simple, proven cost-effective measures that could prevent them. World Prematurity Day is building momentum by showing how countries can reduce preterm births and better care for babies born too soon.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: http://www.unicef.org
Visit UNICEF China website: www.unicef.cn
For further information, please contact:
Liu Li, UNICEF China, +8610 85312612, firstname.lastname@example.org