High prematurity, preterm deaths worry ministry, partners

The Ministry of Health has called for increased awareness on Kangaroo Mother Care—more especially in rural communities—in order to prevent deaths of babies born before completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy.

The ministry also called for more specialized health personnel and equipment in caring for the babies, technically known as preterm.

Director of Reproductive Health Services, Dr. Fanny Kachale, made the remarks on Tuesday in Lilongwe when she briefed journalists on commemoration of the World Prematurity Day in Malawi, which was held on Wednesday at Bwaila Hospital in the capital.

Dr. Fanny Kachale

Kachale’s remarks come in view of the 2018 World Prematurity Day estimates which put prematurity in Malawi at 10.5 percent, with its complications contributing 40 percent to neonatal mortality rates.

Kachale said everyone must get involved in ensuring that preterm live, are loved, cared for and their rights promoted, for there are many apparent examples that some of these babies ended up growing into productive citizens.

“Kangaroo Mother Care, among other methods, should be more encouraged and promoted by communities. Wives and husbands need to be warming their babies whilst taking them to the nearest health facilities.

“Such babies need warming and feeding, among other necessities. In our hospitals, we need specialized equipment to aid such.

“For instance, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines, aid the breathing of these babies. Specialized health personnel is required, too,” she said.

Evelyn Zimba

According to Kachale, Malaria, Syphilis and diabetes infections in women and teenage pregnancies are some of the factors contributing to high prematurity in Malawi. She said the Ministry of Health and its partners are implementing interventions to deal with these challenges.

Country Director for Neonatal Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST), Evelyn Zimba, said the organization recognizes government’s limitations in curbing prematurity, hence they are supporting preterm nurseries in all central and district hospitals and selected nine under Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM).

“We also provide capacity building for health personnel and donate radiant warmers, CPAP machines and oxygen concentrators, among other equipment,” Zimba said.

World Prematurity Day is celebrated Worldwide on 17th November. This year, Malawi opted for Wednesday, 30th November, reportedly due to unforeseen circumstances.

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