On Thursday, November 17, Community Partners International (CPI) hosted the first ever World Prematurity Day event focused on Myanmar. Held in Mae Sot, on the Thailand-Myanmar border, the event focused on raising awareness about premature birth in Myanmar. While the scale of the problem is significant, with an estimated 116,800 babies born premature each year in Myanmar, and 21% of deaths of children under 5 caused by premature birth complications, there is little understanding or awareness at national or community level.
The event was attended by community-based health organizations delivering lifesaving health services to Myanmar communities. Sayama, Naw Sophia Hla, Deputy Director of the Mae Tao Clinic spoke about prematurity and premature care a the Mae Tao Clinic. Their Reproductive Health Clinic has saved the lives of babies with birth weight as low as 0.8kg.
CPI's Program Technical Advisor, Dr. Thein Win, presented a summary of international research into prematurity.
CPI presented an award to Sayama Lay Lay, the Mae Tao Clinic's Reproductive Health (Inpatient) In-Charge, to recognise the extraordinary work of her and her team in saving the lives of premature babies.
The event emphasised the lack of attention give to prematurity in Myanmar and the need to raise awareness of risk factors, causes and strategies to reduce premature birth among health professionals and the general population. Basic health care can save three quarters of babaies from dying of premature birth complications. This includes essential care during child birth and in the postnatal period for every mother and baby; prenatal steriod injections give to pregnant women at risk of preterm laobor under set criteria to strenghten babies' lungs; kangaroo mother care where the baby is carried by the mother with skin-to-skin contact and frequently breastfed; and antibiotics to treat newborn infections.
To help reduce premature birth rates, women need improved nutrition and care before, between and during pregnancies. Better access to contraceptives and increased empowerment could also help reduce premature births by improving birth spacing.
CPI plans to continue raising awareness of prematurity in Myanmar, and ensure that premature births are reduced and premature babies receive the care they need to survive and thrive.
The event was supported under the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)'s Primary Health Care (PHC) Project.