The Times of Tanzania
Eastern Africa News Network

How Air Pollution is killing premature babies in Tanzania and the rest of Africa

At least one premature baby dies every second around the world, while Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa contribute 65 percent of the annual global deaths.

“With premature babies experiencing difficulties in breathing, as well as being more susceptible to infections, polluted air usually spells their deaths,” said Dr Stephen Swanson, an American medical expert based in Arusha.

Dr Swanson said there is no exact figure of premature birth, though most of such cases occur in Africa and Asia, but in Tanzania, it could be around 17 percent of all births.

Health experts from the Sub-Saharan African Region who have been meeting in Arusha explained that air pollution is the major contributing factor to the deaths of children born too soon, while on the other hand, medical ailments caused by effects of climate change catalyses their early births.

“The other factors are emerging maladies, especially modern and non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, cancer and diabetes,” said Dr Godwin Kivuyo the Acting Managing Director of Arusha Lutheran Medical Center.

Dr Kivuyo was speaking at the International Neonatology Conference which ran in sync with special training of 200 medical practitioners from the Sub-Saharan countries.

The training was conducted by experts from European Countries, the United States and South Africa.

Training coordinator, Stephen Swanson said the sessions are meant to equip doctors and medical attendants with skills to take care of premature babies and reduce their mortality rate.

Dr Ndini Itoine is a specialist from Maternity Africa caring for premature babies who points out that such services require nurses with passion and compassion.

“When it comes to the ratio, one nurse should be taking care of between one and four babies but many hospitals have just one nurse for more than ten premature births, which can be overwhelming,” said Dr Itoine.

These were described to be regions with the highest rates of preterm birth, and preterm babies who also face the highest mortality risk.

Together, Africa and Asia reportedly account for more than 65 percent of preterm births globally.

The situation around the world is that for every 10 babies born, 1 is preterm – and every 40 seconds, 1 of those cherubs dies.

According to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) data, over 250,000 children are born prematurely in Tanzania every year, and approximately 9,500 of them do not survive.

Medical experts attending the training sessions say poor handling given to premature babies also accelerates their death.

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