• Infant mortality exasperated by pre-term births
• Batswana largely not aware of pre-term births care
Princess Marina Hospital (PMH) recorded 144 infant deaths by July last year, showing a concerning increase compared to 124 deaths recorded in 2014. This is according to Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Phillip Makgalemela, who says prematurity rate which has also escalated has been found to be the major cause of these deaths.
“Prematurity rate is escalating globally and this is the biggest contributing factor to infant mortality. Botswana is faced with this challenge… PMH alone recorded 1017 premature births against a total of 6232 children born in 2014. In 2015 the hospital recorded 1292 premature births from a total of 7145 children born,” he said.
Meanwhile, it is also reported that Batswana are largely not aware of pre-term birth care and the risks involved in the development of pre-term infants. The minister said it was imperative for women to be educated on such issues and do away with cultural practices and stigma surrounding those who have experienced pre-term birth.
He noted that while some of the premature babies do well, some continue to face multiple challenges as they grow up in comparison to their full-term counterparts.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15 million babies are born pre-term every year, one million of these children die each year due to complications of prematurity.
Deputy Head of Department of Pediatrics Dr. Wilfrid Valliante said Botswana has one of the highest rates of pre-term births in the world with 15 pre-term births per 100 live births.
“Globally, complications of pre-term birth, such as difficulty in feeding, breathing and regulating body temperature, are the leading cause of neonatal death. In order to survive, these babies need specialized care and equipment,”he explained.
He also noted that without appropriate treatment, survivors of complications of pre-term birth are at increased risk of lifelong disability and poor quality of life. “At PMH, in Neonatal Care Unit, with the capacity of 48 places, we have about 1200 to 1500 admissions per year. The mortality rate is high mostly for the pre-term babies under 1kg,” he said.