15m Babies Born Premature Annually, Says Experts 


Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City

Medical experts at the University of Benin has disclosed that one out of ten babies are born preterm globally, thereby resulting in the birth of 15 million babies annually.

The experts noted that the number of premature babies had been on the increase in Nigeria specifically due to what the ascribed largely to ignorance of parents and lack good medical care.

Among others, Head, School of Ophthalmology, University of Benin, Prof. Adaosa Uhunmwangho and Dr. Richard Okonkwo made the disclosed at the 2019 World Prematurity Day.

The Institute of Child Health, University of Benin/University of Benin Teaching, Benin City marked the day under a theme, “Born Too Soon: Providing the Right Care at the Right Time and at the Right Place.”

Speaking on the subject, Uhunmwangho emphasised the need for mothers of premature babies to be aware of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a disease of the retina in the eye that can occur in premature babies.

She said: “In premature babies, the retina is not fully developed. But there are several risk factors. Every premature baby must be properly observed and they should undergo eye examination as recommended by the eye doctor.”

Uhunmwangho said most mothers refused treatment of the eye of their baby and they end up blind, noting that it was nothing to be afraid instead of going to spend millions of naira out of ignorance.

Also speaking at the forum, Okonknwo disclosed that over 90 percent of extremely preterm babies (28 weeks) born in low income countries died within the first few days of life while less than 10 percent of babies of this gestation died in high income countries.


“Improved hospital care for small and sick new born babies will be needed to reach SDG target of 12 or fewer neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births. The high prevalence and costs of prematurity have captured the attention of policy makers and have demanded attention in many high income countries.”




Okonkwo said there are several famous premature babies and they made it and become great, including Albert Einstein, Stevie Wonder and former Prime Minister of Britain, Sir Winston Churchill; amongst others .


In his remarks, Acting Director, Institute of Child Health (ICH), Dr Damian Nwaneri said the reason November 17 “is set aside annually to celebrate premature babies is because they are humans.




Allaying fears of pregnant mothers, Nwaneri said with the right care at the right place and the right time, children born prematurely could still live.


He said: “Some babies born prematurely get matured and today they are doing very well. Some are medical doctors and one in the UBTH is a consultant Paediatrician.




“They can live if provided with the right care at the right place and right time. Though some may have problems which have to do with the eye,” Nwaneri said.




He disclosed that the Institute of Child Health “is one of the oldest faculties established by the university, saddled with the responsibility of training services, and research by running post graduate courses in child health as well as certificate courses.”