Fifteen Million Babies Are Born Too Soon
1 million of these babies die each year, making premature birth now the second leading cause of death globally for children under five, after pneumonia. This news comes from the release of Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth which provides the first-ever national, regional and global estimates of preterm birth. Perhaps even more disconcerting, preterm birth is on the rise in most countries.
Each of us has a story related to the babies in our lives who were born to soon. It’s hard to wrap our minds around the millions. But the one, the one who matters to us, that’s something we understand. When I was 4 years old, my youngest brother was born three months early. He stopped breathing multiple times. My father was told to call the priest, as my brother would not make it through the night. He was so tiny, he was never weighed, but my mother said his head was smaller than an orange. Years of therapy of every kind and two decades of lung problems later, he has defied the odds and now is a 6’3” cattle rancher with a family of his own.
When a dear friend was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago, she was also 7 months pregnant with a long-awaited child. Two days after diagnosis, her son was delivered by C-section, and two days after that she began chemo and radiation therapy. She had a couple of precious months with her baby before she died. I remember holding him in the NICU – all 1.5 pounds of his tiny limbs covered in cords and apparatus – his body no bigger than a small sack of flour. We wept and prayed for each breath of the smallest chest imaginable. He battled for his life and won, where his mother could not. He too, is one of the defiant ones.
There are many more such stories in my life, both inspirational and heart-breaking, as I am sure there are in yours. It’s not just surviving birth, but the many life-long health and developmental challenges most pre-term babies will face throughout their lives that we have to fight.
The World is Taking Action
Addressing premature birth is now an urgent priority for reaching Millennium Development Goal 4, calling for the reduction of child deaths by two-thirds by 2015. This report shows that rapid change is possible and identifies priority actions for everyone.
The report is a joint effort of almost 50 international, regional and national organizations, led by the March of Dimes, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children and the World Health Organization in support of the Every Woman Every Child effort, launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Born Too Soon proposes actions for policy, programs and research by all partners – from governments to NGOs to the business community -- that if acted upon, will substantially reduce the toll of preterm birth, especially in high-burden countries.
The report contains a foreword by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and is accompanied by more than 30 new and expanded commitments to prevention and care of preterm birth, joining more than 200 existing commitments on www.everywomaneverychild.org.
Take the ChallengeEvery 90 seconds a woman needlessly loses her life in pregnancy or childbirth. But 80% of these are preventable. Take action now:
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