By Asmau Ahmad
A new United Nations report said around one in 10 babies was born prematurely worldwide and nearly one in 13 of them died from preterm birth complications.
Premature births are those which occur before the 37th week of a normal 40-week pregnancy.
Between 2010 and 2020, 152 million babies were born prematurely, said the report released on Wednesday in Geneva.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) alliance issued the report.
Whether a premature baby survives depends on where it is born, according to the report: In high-income countries, nine out of 10 children survived, even if they were born at less than 28 weeks of gestation.
In low-income countries, that was the case for only one in 10 children.
The report notes that premature babies who do survive can have impaired health for life, even in high-income countries.
The risk of disabilities and developmental delays is higher than for babies born after 40 weeks of pregnancy.
About two-thirds of premature births occur in southern Asia and Africa. The organisations report that this is also where the risk of death is highest.
Conflicts, climate change and environmental pollution increase the risks to the health of women and babies.
However, air pollution contributed to six million out of a total of around 13.2 million premature births per year in 2020.
When women have children in their teens, the risk of premature birth is higher.
Among other things, the organisations called for women around the world to be given access to sexual and reproductive health services, this includes effective family planning and good care during pregnancy and birth.
The organisations said governments must pay more attention to the issue of premature births and invest in improving care for pregnant women.