A study published Friday indicates 1 in 10 babies around the world are born prematurely — before 37 weeks — leading to deaths, disability and chronic illnesses.
The study was conducted by the World Health Organization, the U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The study monitored global births between 2010 and 2020 and documented global, regional and country estimates and trends. It found 13.4 million babies — 1 in 10 of all live births — were born prematurely in 2020, with large disparities between regions and nations.
It showed about 65% of 2020 preterm births worldwide occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, where more than 13% of all births were preterm. The rates in the most affected countries — Bangladesh, 16.2%; Malawi 14.5%; and Pakistan, 14.3% — were three or four times higher than those in the world’s least affected countries — Serbia, 3.8%; Moldova, 4%; and Kazakhstan, 4.7%.
The study indicates premature birth is not limited to low- and middle-income countries, with data showing preterm rates of 10% or higher in wealthier nations such as Greece, with 11.6%, and the United States, at 10%. No region saw a significant reduction in premature births during the 10-year period.
The WHO said that premature birth is a leading cause of death among young children, and that those who survive are more susceptible to disabilities, developmental issues and chronic illness as adults.
The U.N. agency called for greater global investment in prevention and ensuring access to quality health care.
The study, titled “National, regional, and global estimates of preterm birth in 2020, with trends from 2010: a systematic analysis,” was published in the British medical journal Lancet.
Source : VOA News