India is among top five countries in the world where pre-term births take place, according to the report in The Indian Express.
Pre-term births means babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy.
The report mentioned that every two seconds pre-term baby is born in the country and every 40 seconds one of those babies dies.
“Almost half of all pre-term births in 2020 happened in five countries — India, Pakistan, Nigeria, China and Ethiopia — according to a new report released by the United Nations (UN) agencies and partners on Tuesday,” the report said.
It said: “Together they accounted for 45 per cent of babies born too soon around the world, exposing them to a high mortality risk. This indicates a ‘silent emergency’ for children’s survival and health”.
It mentioned an estimated 13.4 million babies were born pre-term in 2020 with nearly one million dying from complications.
“This is equivalent to around one in 10 babies as per the report titled ‘Born too Soon: Decade of Action on Pre-term Birth”, put together by WHO, United Nations Children’s Fund and Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) – the world’s largest alliance for women, children and adolescents,” it said.
The report also said in 2020, Bangladesh had the highest estimated pre-term birth rate (16.2 per cent), followed by Malawi (14.5 per cent) and Pakistan (14.4 per cent). India and South Africa, at an estimated 13 per cent each, were among the top five countries with high pre-term birth rates.
The total pre-term birth numbers for the five countries are alarming indeed as India tops the list with 30.16 lakh births, Pakistan is at 9.14 lakh, Nigeria at 7.74 lakh and China at 7.52 lakh, it said.
The report includes updated estimates from WHO and UNICEF.
The report quoting a health care expert explaining the cause of pre-term births said: “In rural areas, there used to be a common complaint of lack of access to health care but initiatives like special newborn care units, improved labour rooms and efficient deliveries have helped save many pre-term babies. But they are still not as expansive.”
It also said the government has launched many programmes such as the India Newborn Action Plan and Rashtriya Bal Suraksha Karyakram and has set up many Speciality Newborn Care Units (SNCUs) across the country.
“Several factors like lifestyle changes, chronic diseases and IVF pregnancies are associated with increased pre-term births in urban centres. Reduced fertility levels and assisted pregnancies are also not without the risk of pre-term births,” the report quoted another expert as having said.
“As for the region-wise break-up of pre-term births in India, a report published on June 28 last year in PloS-Global Public Health showed that West Bengal reported 16 per cent of such births, Tamil Nadu 14 per cent and Gujarat 9 per cent,” the report said.
It said overall pre-term birth rates have not changed in any region in the world in the past decades.
The global pre-term birth rate was 9.9 per cent in 2020, compared to 9.8 per cent in 2010, it said.