Nigeria has commemorated this year’s World Pneumonia Day as well as the World Prematurity Day.
As a country, Nigeria thought it strategic to combine the commemoration of these two days this year, because they are intricately linked, as prematurity is a major risk factor for neonatal pneumonia.
The individual days are set aside to raise awareness on the global burden of pre-term births and pneumonia with a view to repositioning these issues on Government’s agenda through increasing awareness and cost-effective interventions.
Addressing the media in Abuja, the Nigerian minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole said that “globally, about 15 million babies are born prematurely each year, Nigeria being the 3rd largest contributor to this number has an estimated 871,000 babies born preterm every year. Babies born too soon have a higher risk of death that is thirteen times higher than babies born at term.
Thus, one of every three newborn deaths is attributable to complications of prematurity. Those who survive may face lifelong disabilities, including learning, visual and hearing problems and their quality of life is greatly affected.”
He noted that in the same vein, globally, Pneumonia follows closely neonatal causes as the next largest cause of under-five mortality and is the leading single disease cause of under-five deaths in Nigeria.
“Pneumonia majorly affects the marginalized and the poorest children, accounting for 18% of cause of death in under-fives, about one million deaths among children annually and more than 2500 children per day under the age of five suffering from complications resulting from pneumonia.
Evidence has shown that simple practices such as early and exclusive breastfeeding, vaccination, hand washing with soap and water as well as low level of exposure to greenhouse gases are protective against the development of pneumonia,” Prof. Adewole said.
The minister noted however, that it was not all doom and gloom, as results from the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey indicate an 18% reduction in under-five mortality rates from 157 per 1000 live births in 2008 to 128 per 1000 live births in 2013.
” Commendable as this may seem, we are mindful that additional efforts are required to further crash the mortality rates and reduce preventable deaths from prematurity and pneumonia to the barest minimum, he said.
He pointed out that the Ministry had not relented in its efforts to reduce preventable deaths of her newborns and children since the last commemoration but had achieved some milestones.
On her part, the president of Nigeria Society of Neonatal Medicine, Prof. Veronica Ezeaka said that to tackle prematurity issues, it was important to promote essential care during childbirth and in the postnatal period for every mother and baby.
She said the care should include antenatal corticosteroids (given to pregnant women at risk of preterm labour to strengthen the babies’ lungs), kangaroo mother care which provide thermal care via skin-to-skin contact for the baby and support breastfeeding (particularly, exclusively, for the first six months of life), and antibiotics to treat newborn infections.
The World Health Organization representative, Mr. Andrew Mbewe, said that WHO is currently providing assistance to Nigeria in capacity building and care for premature and children affected by pneumonia in different parts of Nigeria.
Mr. Joseph Monehin of the United States Agency for International Development, praised the Nigerian government in it’s efforts and intervention in treatment of pneumonia and premature children.
The high point of the event was the launching of three national health publications: The National Strategy for Scale-up Chlohexidine in Nigeria, Nigeria Every New Born Action Plan and Essential Newborn Care Course Training Packages by the minister of health, Prof. Isaac Adewole.
The theme of the joint celebration is “Innovate to End Pneumonia and Complications of Prematurity ” Let Them Survive and Thrive: Get Involved.