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Nov 17
It’s World Prematurity Day! Here’s why it matters.

By: Lunga Memela (Communication Engagement Lead)

https://www.hst.org.za/PublishingImages/World%20Prematurity%20Day.jpg

Any parent can tell you about the excitement and associated level of anxiety that comes with bringing a newborn baby into the world. The anxiety is exacerbated when the mother-to-be suddenly goes into labour prematurely – be it completely unforeseen, or even after the doctor made the decision to deliver the baby ahead of time, often to save the baby's life, or that of the mother. The jitters are undeniable.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every day, approximately 800 women and 6 700 babies lose their lives around the time of childbirth. "In addition, nearly 5 400 babies are stillborn daily, with 40% of these deaths occurring in relation to labour and childbirth. Most stillbirths, maternal and newborn deaths and harm are avoidable through the provision of safe, respectful and quality care during pregnancy, childbirth and in the first days of life."

In September this year, WHO announced its World Patient Safety Day Goals 2021, which promote safe maternal and newborn practices. The goals aim to improve maternal and newborn safety at the point of care and to accelerate action towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of reducing maternal mortality and ending avoidable deaths of newborns by 2030. The goals are to: 

  • Reduce unnecessary and harmful practices to women and newborns during childbirth
  • Strengthen capacity of and support to health workers for safe maternal and newborn care
  • Promote respectful care for safe childbirth
  • Improve safe use of medication and blood transfusion during childbirth
  • Report and analyse safety incidents in childbirth


WHO further elicits that every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation), and this number is rising. "Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age, responsible for approximately 1 million deaths in 2015. Three-quarters of these deaths could be prevented with current, cost-effective interventions. Across 184 countries, the rate of preterm birth ranges from 5% to 18% of babies born."

This is why the international community today observes World Prematurity Day. The commemoration raises awareness for the millions of children every year who are born prematurely. The global theme for this year's World Prematurity Day 2021 is:

Zero Separation

Act now! Keep parents and babies born too soon together.

"World Prematurity Day is one of the most important days in the year to raise awareness of the challenges and burden of preterm birth globally," says the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) – the first pan-European organisation and network to represent the interests of preterm and newborn infants and their families. It brings together parents, healthcare experts from different disciplines, and scientists with the common goal of improving long-term health of preterm and newborn children.

Besides the colour purple, which stands for sensitivity and exceptionality, the socksline [as seen in the above illustration] has become a symbol for World Prematurity Day. The small pair of purple socks – framed by nine full-size baby socks – symbolises the 1 in 10 babies born preterm, worldwide.

World Prematurity Day reminds us of babies born too early and the health challenges they can face as they grow up. These little ones need loads of love and support and World Prematurity Day is a chance to show it.

Let's also use this day to promote healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. 

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