Providing the right medical services, at the right time and in the right places could help in solving the high prevalence of death of premature babies in Nigeria, medical experts say.
The experts, who spoke at a conference organised by the Neonatal Unit of Paediatrics Department in conjunction with the Paediatric Nurses of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), to commemorate World Premature Day celebration recently, said saving premature babies was very possible, if the right things were done.
Emphasising on the theme of the 2019 World Paediatric Day (WPD), “Born Too Soon: Providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place,” they explained that despite the advancement in medical care, prematurity remained the leading cause of death in children under five years, hence the need to carry out intensive sensitisation on the issue.
“Statistics have shown that more than 60 percent of delivery that occurs in Nigeria happens either at home or traditional centres, not at a health facility, hence when they deliver in such places, and it’s a preterm baby, they lose hope thinking these babies won’t survive,” said Beatrice Ezenwa, consultant neonatologist/paediatrician at LUTH and a senior lecturer at the College of Medicine at the University of Lagos.
“Even when they decide to bring them in, they bring them in conditions that might not favour their survival,” she said.
Ezenwa explained that administering the right care medical facility at the right time and in the right place helps in curbing the death of babies born prematurely.
With 15 million babies born prematurely on an annual basis across the globe, Nigeria took the 3rd spot among countries having the highest number of premature births, with about over 800,000 of such births, according to 2014 data by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Nigeria was also ranked third among countries of the world as having the greatest number of neonatal deaths per year with about 240,110 deaths per annum, accounting for about 9 per cent of global neonatal deaths. Of the leading causes of neonatal death in Nigeria, prematurity accounts for the largest chunk at 33 percent.
However, cases of premature deaths are not peculiar to Nigeria alone as data show that countries such as India, China, and even advanced nations such as the United States, are faced with similar issues.
Funmilayo Yusuf, a senior registrar at LUTH, explained that at times, the exact cause of a premature birth is unknown. She, however, identified four main factors that may cause premature labour, which are: being pregnant with more than one baby; bleeding or other problems with the uterus, stress, and lastly infection in the uterus or elsewhere in the body.
According to Yusuf, the degree of prematurity, in most cases, directly correlates with the extent and severity of acute medical conditions.
“Each premature infant must be evaluated carefully on an individual basis and once the baby has been stabilized and/or transferred to the Neonatal, Intensive Care Unit (NICU), proper history must be obtained,” she said.
To spread the message properly, the medical experts from the Neonatal Unit of Paediatrics Department, the Paediatrics nurses of LUTH, and their partners all came out en-mass, matched to Ojuwoye market in Mushin to sensitise the community on prematurity and the challenges of being born too soon, as well as opportunities for survival.