Over 600 newborns die in Pakistan every year, says UNICEF


ISLAMABAD: The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on Friday said that each year over 600 newborns die in Pakistan due to complications related to birth asphyxia, prematurity and sepsis.

Every year, 15 million babies in the world are born prematurely and nearly one million die due to related complications. This makes preterm birth one of the leading causes of child deaths under the age of five, said a press release issued here on the occasion of World Prematurity Day being observed globally on November 17, 2018.

While supporting the new initiatives taken by the Government of Pakistan to reduce preterm births and newborn mortality, UNICEF called for ‘working together by partnering with families in the care of small and sick newborns’, which is also the theme this year for the World Prematurity Day.

“Evidence-based and cost-effective interventions such as Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) must be scaled up to reach the most marginalised communities”, said Aida Girma, UNICEF’s representative in Pakistan.

“Progress towards global goals for health and well-being is possible only if the number of preterm births and deaths under the age of five are reduced,” she added.

According to the details, UNICEF has supported the Pakistani government in establishing 38 Sick Newborn Care Units (SNCU) at public health facilities across the country.

Furthermore, the KMC initiative has been introduced in these centres and awareness-raising activities are in progress for improving care for the newborns at home, including timely and appropriate referrals for small and sick newborns.

“Collaborated efforts have helped in the reduction of newborn mortality from 55 deaths per 1,000 live births to 42 deaths per 1,000 live births during the last five years. However, the number of newborn deaths is still high and continued efforts are imperative to save preciously lives,” the UNICEF press release said further.

“With UNICEF’s support, KMC will also be initiated in the Pakistan Institute for Medical Services (PIMS) Hospital, later in November. Training of healthcare providers from various provinces and areas at PIMS will help scale up the initiative over the next few years in order to reach those who are most in need in the neighbouring districts and areas,” it said.

It is pertinent to mention here that good hygiene can help prevent multiple infections while initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth can particularly help prevent deaths.

UNICEF emphasises that the reduction in premature births and newborn deaths can be achieved by strengthening health policies and services with a focus on maternal nutrition as well as improving access and care for mothers and newborns.