Medical experts have warned of the rising cases of preterm births and deaths in Nigeria. They said 31 per cent of newborn deaths in Nigeria were directly due to the complication of preterm birth.
The medical experts, during an event at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi-Araba, to mark the World Prematurity Day, called for more awareness on the causes of prematurity to stem the tide.
A professor of pediatrics at LUTH, Chinyere Ezeaka, said newborn mortality had remained one of Nigeria’s major health challenges.
According to her, the country ranks the highest in Africa, and second globally after India, in terms of neonatal deaths and newborn deaths contribute 32 per cent to under-five mortality in the nation. She noted that the day was set aside to raise awareness on issues around preterm globally as reflected in the theme, ‘Together for Babies Born Too Soon: Caring for the Future.’
Ezeaka disclosed that the direct medical causes of prematurity includes malnutrition and anaemia, teenage pregnancy and multi parity, pre-eclampsia, infections like malaria, Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) among others.
Meanwhile, she said the underlying causes of preterm births included poverty, poor literacy, poor or no antenatal care attendance, and poor access to skilled health providers among others.
Ezeaka said: “Each year, 11 per cent of the world’s babies are born too soon resulting in about 15 million preterms. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported prematurity as the leading cause of under-five deaths globally. 31 per cent of newborn deaths in Nigeria were directly due to the complication of preterm birth.”
Also, Ezeaka said chronic illnesses like diabetes; kidney diseases, heart diseases, hypertension, sickle cell, undue stress, trauma, and hard labour during pregnancy could also lead to prematurity.
She added that the National Comprehensive Newborn Care (NCNC) guidelines would complement the essential newborn care course including key equipment.
In her remarks, Consultant Paediatrician, LUTH, Dr. Iretiola Fajolu, said shortage of skilled staff and equipment were major challenges in managing preterm babies in the country.
She said respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, and intraventricular haemorrhage and congenital abnormalities were the major causes of preterm deaths.
Also, Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC), Prof. Wasiu Adeyemo, said even with the scarce resources in the country, LUTH has built a skilled team with specialty in managing preterm, saying the hospital would continue to give its best to the general public.