Mission Doctors Association

World Prematurity Day

Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm, before 37 weeks. That is more than 1 in 10 babies. Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under age 5 which accounts for approximately 1 million deaths a year. More than 60% of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia, but preterm birth is truly a global problem.

Dr. Raffo with a patient in Uganda

Inequalities in survival rates around the world are stark. In low-income settings, half of the babies born at or below 32 weeks (2 months early) die due to a lack of feasible, cost-effective care, such as warmth, breastfeeding support, and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties.

Premature babies can be saved with practical, low-cost care, such as prenatal care for mothers and their babies during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as support after the baby is born. Steroid injections given to pregnant women at risk of preterm labor is a cost-effective way to strengthen the babies’ lungs, helping to reduce the severity of breathing difficulties, which is common in premature babies. Kangaroo mother care (the baby is carried by the mother with skin-to-skin contact and frequent breastfeeding) and antibiotics to treat newborn infections are other ways to reduce poor outcomes.

Three-quarters of deaths related to prematurity could be prevented with current, cost-effective interventions.

Dr. Ann Marie Raffo


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