Pakistan has the fourth highest number of preterm births in a year-748,100, to be precise-according to Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth.
The worldwide report was prepared by a group of 45 multidisciplinary experts from 26 international organisations, including the Aga Khan University. Preterm births account for more than one in 10 live births in the world, and 60 per cent of them take place in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Nearly 15 million babies are born every year before the expected time of 39 weeks. More than one million of them die shortly after birth, while others suffer from various forms of physical or neurological disability.
Pakistan also ranks eighth among the top 10 countries with the highest preterm birth rate, with 15.8 preterm births for every 100 live births.
The authors of the report estimate that nearly 75 per cent of such babies would survive if some inexpensive prevention and treatment strategies were implemented.
“Premature [birth] is often regarded as synonymous with having a limited chance of survival. Studies point to several low cost [strategies] for women that would [help] save lives and improve pregnancy outcomes,” said Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta, Founding Chair of Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University, and one of the authors of the report.
Some of the measures include antenatal steroid injections for mothers in premature labour and using antiseptic cream to prevent birth cord infection and antibiotics to prevent other types of infection.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.