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UN report: More than a million premature babies die each year
Around one million premature babies die worldwide each year. This is the result of the first United Nations (UN) report on premature babies. According to the report's figures, there has been a general increase in premature births - both in developing countries and in industrialized countries.
Every year, a total of around 15 million children are born prematurely worldwide, 1.1 million will not survive the next few months, according to the figures in the current United Nations report. "More than one in ten babies born in the world are born prematurely," said one of the lead authors of the first premature report, Save the Children, Joy Lawn. According to the experts, around 75 percent of the deaths associated with this could be avoided by simple countermeasures.
Global rise in premature births The premature baby report presents "estimates for all regions of the world" for the first time, said South African epidemiologist Joy Lawn when the report was presented on Wednesday in London. In addition to the regional differences that were evident both in the rate of premature births and in the chances of survival of premature babies worldwide, the report reveals an overall global increase in premature births. This trend can also be observed in a large part of the industrialized nations. The report's authors found the highest rate of premature births worldwide in Malawi, South Africa, where 18.1 percent of the children were born prematurely. The lowest rate of premature birth was recorded by the researchers at 4.1 percent in Belarus. All births that took place before the 38th week of pregnancy were taken into account in the report.
More premature births in Germany than in some developing countries Even in the modern industrialized nations such as the USA or Germany, premature births are by no means uncommon, but sometimes more often than in certain developing countries. The United States has a rate of 12 percent among premature babies and is therefore ranked 131th in the ranking of the premature birth report, with Belarus having the lowest rate of premature births in first place. Germany is in 79th place with 9.2 percent. Both the USA and Germany have more premature babies than countries like Suriname or Albania. The global increase in premature births is attributed to the more than 100 researchers from 40 universities, aid organizations and UN institutions involved in the premature baby report. In developed countries, the growing prevalence of diseases of affluence (obesity, high blood pressure), tobacco and alcohol consumption and late maternity are contributing to an increase in the number of premature babies, while in developing countries there are poor hygiene, a lack of protection against infections, and poor general medical knowledge and poor medical care is causing the rise in premature births.
Warm clothes and medication for premature babies As the causes of premature births in industrialized nations are much more difficult to remedy than the problems mentioned in developing countries, the authors of the premature baby report see a particular need for action here. While people in the United States or Germany are very idle or cannot be put off from their eating habits and late pregnancies are also a phenomenon that can hardly be influenced, the chances of successful intervention in developing countries are significantly better. "It is feasible there," emphasized Joy Lawn. In their view, it would be comparatively easy to save the lives of many premature babies if only enough warm clothing and antibiotics were provided in the developing countries of Southeast Asia or Africa.
Preterm births are the second leading cause of death in infants Globally, premature births are the second leading cause of death in infants, said epidemiologist Joy Lawn. More babies die only from pneumonia. In the preface to the report on premature babies, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said that all newborns are vulnerable, "but premature babies in a very special way." Children born prematurely should therefore be given special care to increase their chances of survival. Even the simplest measures could help ensure that 75 percent of the 1.1 million premature babies who die annually survive, the authors of the report explained. If the mothers were shown how to keep their children warm on the chest with the so-called kangaroo mother model, the deaths could be significantly reduced, Joy Lawn continues. The same applies to an injection that is injected into the mothers before birth in order to avoid lung problems in the premature babies.
Different chances of survival for premature babies The consequences of premature birth vary considerably according to the state of medical care in the individual countries. Christopher Howson of the March of Dimes aid organization emphasized: "What happens to children who are born prematurely depends to a large extent on where they are born." There is a "dramatic gap" between developing countries and industrialized countries. For example, children who have been in the womb for over 25 weeks have a 50 percent chance of survival in developed countries, while “Children who are only eight weeks early in Africa or South Asia (30th week of pregnancy) are at much greater risk to die, ”said epidemiologist Joy Lawn. According to the expert, the current report reveals for the first time “the global extent of the problem.” (Fp)
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Image: N. Schmitz / pixelio.de