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Paediatrician, Chinyere Ezeaka Explains Why Some Babies Die At Birth

Globally 2.4 million babies died in the first month of life in 2019. There are approximately 7 000 newborn deaths every day, amounting to 47% of all child deaths under the age of 5-years, up from 40% in 1990, according to WHO reports.

The majority of all neonatal deaths (75%) occurs during the first week of life, and about 1 million newborns die within the first 24 hours. Preterm birth, intrapartum-related complications (birth asphyxia or lack of breathing at birth), infections and birth defects cause most neonatal deaths in 2017.

According to Chinyere Ezeaka, a Professor of Paediatrics at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Prematurity is one of the most common causes of deaths in newborns.

Ezeaka said this while addressing newsmen at an event to mark the 2020 World Prematurity Day in Lagos on Tuesday.

According to News Agency of Nigeria, the event, which took place at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, had its theme as, ‘Together For Babies Born Too Soon: Caring For the Future.’

Prof. Ezeaka said other causes of deaths in newborns, also called neonatal deaths, included failure to breathe at birth and severe infections at birth.

“These three conditions put together actually contribute up to 80 percent of deaths in the newborn. Why are we worried about deaths in newborns in Nigeria since the MDGs have passed and now we are looking at the Sustainable Development Goals?

“Neonatal deaths contribute up to 32 percent of all the deaths in the under-five; so, when we talk about under-five mortality and morbidity, we should know that they include deaths within the newborn period.

“These are the neonatal period. These are the babies in the first one month, the first 28 days of life and they take a big toll in these under-five deaths.

“Unless we tackle these problems, we may not be able to achieve the SDGs which are within the next 10 years,”

the expert said.

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According to her, the 2030 projections have shown that unless Nigeria expedites reorientation or moves very quickly to reduce deaths within the newborn period, it may not attain the goals.

She said that projections were that at the rate Nigeria was going, it may take 110 years for the country and the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa to reach the level where the high income countries have reached.

Ezeaka said that the management of premature babies starts right from the deliveries. The specialist added:

“This section takes a lot of planning and dedication, starting with working very closely with the obstetrics departments who are with the mother. And working together to be sure that the mother is okay.’’

The professor said that LUTH was also using the occasion to celebrate a set of quadruplets (three boys and one girl) that the department delivered successfully in October 2020.

According to her, teamwork made the delivery successful with support from management and the facilities including dedicated nursing team, doctors, obstetrics team and everybody.

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“The first one stayed 42 days, another one stayed for 45 days. One stayed 50 days because they had random moments of time.

“You see the breathing, sometimes you have the freedom and sometimes you have an infection that you treat. The smallest one was the one that stayed the longest 74 days,’’

she said.

Earlier, Prof. Wasiu Adeyemo, Chief Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC), LUTH, commended the LUTH team for their dedication.

Adeyemo said that the department had the support of management and would always be part of the solution.

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