The Straits Times
Published on Nov 16, 2012

750,000 preterm babies die unnecessarily each year: UN


GENEVA (AFP) - The lives of at least 750,000 premature babies could be saved every year by taking simple and inexpensive steps to limit preterm birth, the world's largest killer of newborns, UN health experts said on Friday.

"There are many interventions that can save lives and improve the quality of these babies' lives that are not high-skilled intensive care but that are simple interventions," said Dr Elizabeth Mason, who heads the World Health Organization's Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health.

Globally, 15 million children are born prematurely every year, representing one in 10 births, the WHO said. Of this number, one million babies die every year, and countless others suffer lifelong physical, neurological or educational disabilities, Dr Mason told reporters in Geneva, adding that the problem disproportionately affects poorer nations.

According to WHO statistics, more than 60 per cent of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia.