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Kenya joins the rest of the World in observing World Prematurity Day

Kenya on Friday join the rest of the world in marking World Prematurity Day. World Prematurity Day is observed on November 17 of each year to raise awareness of the challenges and burden of preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide. A premature birth means a baby is born too early.  The birth takes place before the 37th week of pregnancy.

This year’s event will be held at Makueni County Referral Hospital under the theme, ‘Small actions: Immediate skin-to-skin care for every baby everywhere.’ Prematurity is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five years worldwide with about one in 10 children being born premature. Globally, it is estimated that 13.4 million babies were born preterm in 2020 while preterm birth complications were responsible for approximately 900,000 deaths among children below the age of five years in 2019.

The day is an important day to galvanise stakeholders’ support in giving babies born too soon the best chance to survive and thrive. In Kenya, it is estimated that 127,500 babies were born too soon in the year 2020 accounting for about 12 per cent of all live births. Karimi attributes pre-term births to poor nutrition, alcohol intake, smoking, chronic diseases, previous history of preterm labor and delivery, multiple gestations like twins and triplets, uterine abnormalities, UTIs and STIs as some of the risk factors. “Many survivors face a lifetime of disability, including learning disabilities and visual and hearing problems,” Karimi added.

Kenya has been at the forefront of advocating for Kangaroo Mother Care, a simple, free action taken immediately after birth to place the baby in the mother’s arms with skin-to-skin contact. The intervention is crucial in the care of preterm or low birth weight infants through continuous and prolonged skin-to-skin contact with a parent.

“However, a significant number of these babies die due to complications of prematurity, while others face lifelong disability,” Head, of the Division of Newborn and Child Health at the ministry Janette Karimi says. Having a baby born too soon results in severe financial burdens for many families, communities and the overall health care system.

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