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17 October, 2018 10:58:42 AM

Thousands of newborn babies die annually in Bangladesh

Caring for infants is an essential investment in both short-term and long-term
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
Thousands of newborn babies die annually in Bangladesh

A common maxim goes like this: when a parent dies, you lose your past, when a child dies, you lose your future. The crudest reality in the lives of parents is perhaps to see their children die soon after their birth or a few years later. It is also said that the heaviest burden on the shoulder of parents is the corpse of their children. Quite naturally, parents expect to see their children grow and mature. Ultimately, parents expect to die and leave their children behind. This is the natural course of life events. This also is how the life cycle is continuing as it should. To parents the loss of a child is the loss of innocence, the death of the most vulnerable and dependent. The death of a child signifies the loss of the future, of hopes and dreams, of new strength and of perfection. The loss of a child is like falling darkness before the eyes. A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. But there is no word for a parent who loses a child. That is how awful the loss of a child is!


Globally of the 15 million babies born too early each year, more than one million die due to complications related to preterm (or babies born too early) birth. A major contributor of newborn and child deaths is low birth weight with less than 2,500 grams due to prematurity and restricted growth in uterus, as well as also because of disability and non-communicable diseases. In Bangladesh, nearly 62,000 newborn babies die annually with 33 percent of them born premature and 22 percent of them born with less than 2,500 grams in weight. We can reduce the death of 75 percent children born preterm by utilising our available facilities and expertise. The premature birth of children and lack of their proper care is a matter of utmost concern in Bangladesh. In this respect, experts put the highest emphasis upon the maximum preparation during the birth of a preterm child. Still, around 60 percent children are born at home in Bangladesh, and a truly realistic suggestion is that there must be at least a nurse with all preparations during the delivery, so that the mother could be sent to a nearby hospital in the case of any emergency.

The world over newborns is perhaps the most vulnerable population. Preterm or babies born too early, less than 37 weeks gestation, are particularly at risk. Currently, around the world, prematurity are the leading cause of death among children under five, and a leading cause of disability and ill health in later life. Essential Newborn Care (ENC) – drying, warming, immediate and exclusive breastfeeding, hygiene and cord care – as well as basic care for feeding support, infections and breathing difficulties can mean the difference between life and death for small babies. That is why, experts suggest adequate efforts to identify women at risk of preterm labour and support them to give birth in a health facility that can offer extra care when needed. Those include support for adequate feeding with breast milk, continuous skin to skin contact, antibiotics, and antenatal corticosteroids. In Bangladesh many pregnant mothers do not visit health centres for regular check up or cannot undergo it for various limitations. But we must ensure that the midwives can visit the pregnant mothers' houses and perform regular check up.  In Bangladesh, BRAC runs 54 Maternal Health Care Centres with trained midwives taking due care of the pregnant mothers so far as these can. First, it stressed upon safe motherhood and child health care. In the case of preterm birth, the big challenge is to bring the pregnant mothers to the health centres for proper cheek up. To ease this, it is critical that families, communities and health workers value small babies so that they receive the life-saving care. It is required for action across the spectrum of care from adolescence and preconception, pregnancy, safe management of labour and delivery, and effective immediate and later postnatal care to turn the tide on these preventable deaths. The Directorate of the Family Planning disclosed a unique information describing pregnancy at the adolescent age and also very small spaces between two births as the main causes of premature child birth in Bangladesh.

The national level profile provides the most current national-level information on the status of prevention and care for preterm birth and low birth weight in Bangladesh. There remain a number of risk factors relevant to preterm and low birth weight as well as the coverage of important care for women and newborns from pregnancy, labour and delivery and the postnatal period. There is also information that provides insights into the health workforce, health policies, health information and community mobilisation relevant to preterm birth and low birth weight. Experts are of the opinion that babies born premature often faces challenges of destruction of their Retina.  

Much is already being done to prevent preterm birth and low birth weight and to improve outcomes for small or new born babies. Much more is needed to be done. Care for small babies is an essential investment in both short-term and long-term. That is why, civil society bodies, health workers, communities and other partners must come together to enact a change to prevent babies from being born too early and too small. It needs also to be ensured that small babies get the critical life-saving care and nurturing they need to save the future of parents.

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General

Education Cadre


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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