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November 22, 2019

‘Pre-term births account for one-third of 250,000 newborn deaths in Pakistan’


November 22, 2019

Islamabad: Of the 250,000 newborn deaths occurring in Pakistan each year, one-third are due to preterm births, which predispose babies to mortality and severe morbidity—particularly from infections. As such, it is no small news that Islamabad’s first fully functional Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) Centre is all set official inauguration by First Lady Samina Arif Alvi here today (Thursday).

Compelling evidence from developed low- and middle-income countries is available to show that KMC is one of the most cost-effective strategies to substantially reduce neonatal mortality amongst Low Birth Weight (LBW) infants (weighing less than 2000g), and to reduce severe morbidity among them. The Kangaroo care intervention for preterm babies encompasses neonatal resuscitation; use of Chlorhexidine for cord care; exclusive and frequent breastfeeding in addition to skin-to-skin contact; support for mother-infant bonding; and essential and extra newborn care. Recognizing the need to raise its game vis-a-vis the availability of newborn survival interventions, the Ministry of Health sought UNICEF’s help to establish a KMC Centre at PIMS and to strengthen its training resource centre (MCH Centre) for scaling up the initiative. UNICEF has already supported the establishment of 8 similar centres across Pakistan (5 in Punjab, and one each in Sindh, KP, and AJK), with one at Karachi’s Civil Hospital and another at Peshawar’s Khyber Teaching Hospital undergoing renovations.

In addition to providing necessary equipment and materials for the KMC Centre, UNICEF has also helped train more than 45 staff members from the Gynaecology, Obstetrics and Neonatology Unit of PIMS on Kangaroo Mother Care. “More than 270 preterm LBW babies have received care ever since handing over of supplies in November last year. Now the Centre is fully functional,” a hospital spokesman informed this scribe. The Department of Neonatology at PIMS is the only public sector tertiary care facility in the area to have been practicing all components of key newborn survival interventions. Its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is equipped with latest machinery to provide care to sick and small newborns. The MCH Center has been used by several partners to scale up various trainings in the past.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health Services is learnt to have developed National KMC Guidelines with support from the World Health Organization. A copy of these guidelines will be presented to the First Lady at the Centre’s inauguration ceremony with an expected 200 plus participation. Parents of babies who have received care, as well as parliamentarians, representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Pakistan Nursing Council, professional associations, development agencies, as well as the media will attend the show.

The new global target of ending preventable newborn and child deaths by 2030 (SDG 3.2) cannot be met without focusing on deaths caused by birth asphyxia, prematurity, and sepsis—the three leading causes of new-born deaths.

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