An estimated 17,000 children die within their first four weeks and more than 100,000 babies are born preterm in Vietnam annually, UNICEF said in a press release on Tuesday.
The statistics were provided to observe World Prematurity Day (November 17), which aims to raise awareness of the challenges of preterm birth and shine a light on the risks and consequences faced by premature births and their families worldwide.
Preterm birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five, UNICEF said, adding that each year roughly 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely, or about one in 10 children.
In Vietnam, it is estimated that 17,000 children die within their first 28 days and 103,500 babies are born prematurely per annum.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has forced neonatal units around the world to adopt strict safety measures that often separate parents from their preterm babies, leading to detrimental consequences for both sides.
Separation of parents from their babies contributes to severe and long-term health and developmental issues in the newborns while also affecting the parents’ mental health in lasting ways.
Centered around the ‘Zero Separation. Act now! Keep Parents and Babies Born Too Soon Together’ theme, this year’s World Prematurity Day is an opportunity to advocate for every parent’s right to have unrestricted access to their babies in hospital, no matter where and when.
Even without the additional risks of a global pandemic, preterm babies are among the most vulnerable patients worldwide and, as studies have shown time and again, they need their parents by their side.
Healthcare systems are encouraged to balance the needs of babies born too soon, too small, or too sick and their families with the requirements to keep hospitals running and the staff safe during the pandemic.
In Vietnam, UNICEF continues to work with the Ministry of Health to support and scale up newborn lifesaving interventions throughout the country.
This work focuses in particular on the rural and mountainous provinces in the northern and Central Highlands regions, where a number of ethnic populations live and where worryingly high neonatal mortality rates persist.
“Cost-effective interventions to save newborns include immediate skin-to-skin contact and early initiation of breastfeeding for newborns,” said Maharajan Muthu, chief of the Child Survival and Development Program of UNICEF Vietnam.
“Skin-to-skin contact as early after birth and as continuously as possible has positive and protective effects, such as the regulation of cardiac and respiratory rates, the prevention of sepsis (severe infection), hypothermia (low body temperature) and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), and reduced hospital readmission.
“Meanwhile, early and exclusive breastfeeding and providing mother’s own milk have a positive impact on the baby’s short- and long-term physiological and neurodevelopmental outcomes.
“It is equally important to ensure that babies born too soon, too small or too sick, if needed, have equitable and quick access to higher levels of hospital care, irrespective of where they are born.”
As in previous years, World Prematurity Day activities are being carried out in about 100 countries this week to raise awareness and spur action to prevent preterm birth wherever possible, improve healthcare systems, and save babies’ lives.
In Vietnam, a special event will be organized in Da Nang to mark World Prematurity Day by the Department of Maternal and Child Health under the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, and the Da Nang Hospital for Women and Children in order to honor and recognize the contributions of health workers in newborn care.
The event is also meant to raise awareness of the challenges surrounding preterm birth and ensure that people are informed of the risks and consequences.
It is a part of UNICEF and its partner’s project to support the Ministry of Health in newborn care interventions in order to save the lives of many more infants in Vietnam.
Newborn care and neonatal mortality reduction are among the important goals not only for the health sector but also for Vietnam as the country has been committed to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, according to the Department of Maternal and Child Health.