Annually, 15 million babies are born premature globally and about 800,000 of that number occur in Nigeria. 

That figure leaves Nigeria at number 3 in the world with that figure.

The National President of National Association of Paediatric Nurses (NAPN), Mrs Olubunmi Lawal, gave the number on Saturday.

It is World Prematurity Day and Mrs Lawal spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria on the event with the theme: “Working together, partnering with families in the care of small and sick newborns”.

She said 60% of the annual births of 15 million happen in Sub-Saharan Africa with one million deaths recorded.

"India ranks first, followed by China and then Nigeria is third with 773,600 preterm births yearly, hence the need to raise awareness on the challenges and interventions at communities, families, and to government at all levels.

"Premature birth is a common, costly and critical health problem and also the leading cause of new born death and children under the age of five globally.

"Preterm births are babies born before 37 completed weeks of gestation which are categorised as Extremely Preterm with less than 28 weeks gestation.

"Others are Very Preterm, which are babies born between 28 and 32 weeks gestation and Moderate to Late Preterm are babies born between 32 weeks and before 37 weeks gestation," she said.

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Lawal listed causes of preterm birth to include placenta abruption, where the placenta separates from the uterus during pregnancy and hormonal changes, which could cause stress to the unborn baby or mother, among others.

She explained that babies born too early may experience a long-term health issue that affects the brain, lungs, vision as well as lifetime disabilities than babies born at full term.

According to her, 75% of such complications could be prevented with adequate equipment, skilled health workers and available intensive care units in healthcare facilities.

"This is a call to action, preterm birth is critical and costly to us as a nation, and therefore we want a continuous and sustainable intervention from all stakeholders.

"To achieve Sustainable Development Goal in 2030, the Federal and State Governments must invest in education, healthcare, research, advocacy and community programmes to help give every baby the chance to survive and thrive," Lawal added.

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