World Prematurity Day : UNICEF Offers Equipment, Accessories To Chantal Biya Foundation

The day was celebrated in the Mother and Child Centre of the Chantal Biya Foundation in Yaounde on November 17, 2023.


This year’s World Prematurity Day was celebrated in Cameroon on Friday, November 17, 2023. In Yaounde, the event took place in the Mother and Child Centre of the Chantal Biya Foundation. It was organised by the Ministry of Public Health and the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF. In attendance were the Minister of Public Health, Dr Malachie Manaouda and the Secretary General of the Chantal Biya Foundation, Mrs. Habissou Bidoung.


Saving Oxygen Masks
The Director of the Mother and Child Centre of the Chantal Biya Foundation, Prof. Paul Olivier Koki Ndombo, said the centre receives over 230 premature babies each year – most of whom require oxygen care. But thanks to the Ministry of Public Health, the United Nations Children’s Fund and other partners, oxygen masks have been offered to the centre, he said. The first 9 months of 2023 saw families of admitted babies receiving more than 7 million FCFA in free healthcare, Prof. Ndombo disclosed.


UNICEF Donates
Dr Leonard Kouadio, Acting UNICEF Country Representative for Cameroon, made a donation of premature baby care equipment, accessories and consumables to the Minister of Public Health. Who in turn handed them over to Mrs. Habissou Bidoung. Citing the World Health Organisation, Dr Kouadio said much has been done worldwide in the past decade to reduce mortality in children less than five years old. But amongst newborns, the mortality rate was still worrisome, Dr Kouadio noted. He attributed 28 per cent of deaths amongst newborns to prematurity, though the situation can be prevented, he noted.


Immediate Skin To Skin Care
The theme of this year’s World Prematurity Day is, “Small action, big impact: Immediate skin to skin care for every baby, everywhere.” He stressed that skin to skin care assures the baby’s health – whether born premature or not. He mentioned the Kangaroo Mother Care, KMC as the key in reducing mortality in newborns. The cost-effective method, he underscored, has proven to reduce deaths amongst newborns by 32 per cent. UNICEF has been supporting the Ministry of Public Health by offering training for Kangaroo Mother Care, Dr Kouadio disclosed.


Challenges Of Prematurity
The Minister of Public Health, Dr Malachie Manaouda, said prematurity renders the baby fragile and vulnerable. Adding that reducing mortality amongst newborns was still a big concern to government and its partners. He disclosed that more than 300 incubators have been distributed to health facilities in the country over the years. Dr Manaouda recommended the Kangaroo Mother Care method, saying it has a success rate of 80 per cent for babies placed on it.


Preventable Deaths
According to the Minister, at least 85 per cent of neonatal deaths in Cameroon can be prevented through regular hospital care - before, during and after delivery. This is why the first phase of the Universal Health Coverage scheme has been launched in the country, he noted. “Prematurity and its complications are major public health concerns to Cameroonian authorities,” the Minister emphasized.
“A premature newborn is like any other baby. I experienced it with my daughter who survived, to good healthcare. Today, she is doing fine and has no signs of having been born premature,” Dr Malachie Manaouda recounted.    


Understanding Prematurity
Premature or preterm babies are those born alive before the eighth month of pregnancy (or before the 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed). Most premature babies are of little weight. That is, they weigh less than 2.5 kilogrammes. According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, prematurity or preterm births can be classified into four categories - Extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks of pregnancy), Very preterm (28 to less than 32 weeks of pregnancy) and Moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks of pregnancy).


Prematurity Causes  
The World Health Organisation reports that one out of 10 new newborns in the world is premature. Out of the 15 million premature newborns across the globe, one million end up dying. According to the 2018 Cameroon Demographic and Health Survey, DHS, 28 out of 1,000 live births die premature. Preterm births are caused by a number of direct and indirect preventable factors. The direct causes are infections, anaemia, malaria and malnutrition; chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure in the mother; multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, quintuplets…) and congenital malformation.


Indirect Birth Causes
The indirect causes of preterm births linked to health include pregnancies not followed up in hospital, low quality of healthcare offered before, during and after birth; the age of the mother (less than 18 years or above 35 years); and a history of preterm births.
The causes that have to do with the standards of living are distance from health facilities, hard work like farming, house chores, carrying heavy loads…; early marriage, consumption of tobacco, alcohol, low level of education, negligence, beliefs and customs.
The indirect causes of preterm births that have to do with socio-economic living conditions are low household income, poor universal health coverage rate, absence of health insurance …


Consequences Of Prematurity
On the other hand, the consequences of prematurity are numerous. Such as delivery complications which are the main cause of death. Premature births are expensive to care for (between 600,000 FCFA and 1 million FCFA in Cameroon) before the baby is discharged from the maternity/hospital. Such babies tend to be viewed negatively by relatives and the mothe...



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