THE Paediatric Association of Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating the World Prematurity Day at an event held at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital.
This commemoration comes at a time paediatricians bemoan the high continental burden preterm babies.
The event was held under the theme,“Zero Separation. Act Now! Keep parents and babies born too soon together” inspired by the Kangaroo method where mothers keep their preterm babies to their chest, skin to skin.
Speaking to journalists after the event, the Hospital’s head of department of the paediatric unit Dr Gwendoline Chimhini explained that the World Prematurity Day was first commemorated in 2009.
“Today we were celebrating with the mothers, you can see them doing kangaroo care. They are doing skin to skin. We were celebrating world prematurity day. So 17 November is a day that has been designated annually, the world over to commemorate prematurity, premature babies since 2009,” she said.
She said Zimbabwe like any other sub-Saharan African nation has a huge burden of prematurity.
“So, in Zimbabwe and the whole of sub-Saharan Africa we have a high burden of prematurity. About 12 percent of all our babies are born prematurely. That’s about one in every 10 babies. When a baby is born preterm, there many problems for the mother, the family and also us the health workers that is the doctors and nurses,” Dr Chimhini said. “Sub-Saharan Africa carries the highest of this burden, accounting for 42% of deaths, the highest premature birth rate of 12% and the highest deaths due to complications of prematurity. In Africa, the situation is compounded by a high birth rate and a slower annual rate of reduction in neonatal mortality rates. This would mean that without concerted efforts, almost 90% of countries in SSA will not meet the SDG target of reducing neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1000 live births by 2030.”
In Zimbabwe Prematurity is the leading cause of death for children under 5years old. “Today the Paediatric Association of Zimbabwe join the rest of the world in celebrating all premature babies who have made it. We salute the health workers and parents who have made this possible,” Dr Chimhini added.
Dr Marcia Mangiza, a neonatologist at the Hospital urged mothers to breastfeed their preterm babies as this boosts the baby’s odds of survival.
“Today we are commemorating world prematurity day. We remembering our preterm babies. We call them our tiny tots. The ones who come a little bit too early. We are remembering the challenges they go through. These are the challenges for the baby, the challenges for the mother and the health care workers.
“And we are saying as Zimbabwe, we want to reduce the deaths in preterm babies. We want to do everything we can in order to reduce the deaths. As you saw, mothers we doing skin to skin care. That is one of the ways. As we were going through this event we spoke about our slogan. We spoke about breast feeding.
“We encourage that these babies get breast milk because it helps prevent deaths in our preterm babies. So, we are fighting deaths in preterm babies and we are celebrating with those who have made it and we want more and more of our preterm babies to survive in our nation,” she said.