World Prematurity Day: Health Minister Says 85% Neonatal Deaths In Cameroon Are Avoidable    

Nov 20, 2023
Dr. Manaouda in symbolic reception of medical equipment from UNICEF officials

Dr. Manaouda in symbolic reception of medical equipment from UNICEF officials

By Nformi Sonde Kinsai

The Minister of Public Health, Dr Manaouda Malachie, has declared that about 85 percent of neonatal deaths recorded in Cameroon are avoidable. He said this can happen if there is strict follow-up of pregnancies, and adequate care taken at delivery of newborns with such children followed up by health professionals for at least 42 days.

He made the declaration at the Mother and Child Centre of the Chantal Biya Foundation in Yaounde on November 17, 2023, during the commemoration of the 15th edition of the World Prematurity Day under the theme: “Small actions, BIG IMPACT: Immediate skin to skin care of every baby everywhere.”

The occasion was marked by the donation of huge quantities of medical equipment through the Minister to the Mother and Child Centre of the Chantal Biya Foundation.

Hailing technical and financial partners particularly UNICEF for their actions towards newborns especially the premature ones, Dr. Manaouda said going by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs to which Cameroon is party, priority is given to the health of the mother and child especially the reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality. He noted that neonatal mortality remains preoccupying despite therapeutic advances and efforts made in health service delivery.

The Minister said because of the efforts, neonatal mortality dropped in the country from 31 to 28 deaths per 1000 live births between 2011 and 2018 going by results of the demographic and health survey conducted by the National Institute of Statistics. He talked of the provision of equipment to health facilities including more than 300 neonatal incubators.

He said in addition to the incubators, Cameroon is also successfully experimenting with the mother kangaroo method of handling prematurity whose efficiency is very encouraging not only in building the natural link between newborns and parents but also for follow-up to enable newborn babies to attain acceptable weight at birth. He revealed that 1221 of the 1525 premature newborns in the country benefitted from the mother kangaroo method of quality treatment giving an 80 percent success rate.

“This is clear evidence that the mother kangaroo method is efficaciously contributing to reducing deaths in newborns linked to prematurity complications. This has to continue and extend to the whole country to ensure the survival and harmonious development of our newborns in urban and rural areas. It is a simple, easy to practice, less costly and accessible to all method recommended by the WHO,” Dr. Manaouda stated.

Maintaining that prematurity is the second cause of death (3 out of10 deaths) of newborns after difficulty in breathing at birth, the Minister called on all to show concern and love for this category of children, to enable them to grow up like all other children and contribute to national building as wished by President Paul Biya. He said the health of mothers and children occupies a key position in the first phase of the Universal Health Coverage policy ongoing in Cameroon.

Speaking for the Cameroon Country Office of UNICEF, Dr. Leonard Koudio said the donation of medical equipment is to enable health professionals to adequately care for newborns especially the premature adding that prematurity is not a fatality.

He said since 2009 and every November 17, the international community commemorates World Prematurity Day, a major challenge for the survival of children across the globe. He hailed the government for the efforts in the promotion of maternal and neonatal health and said according to WHO; remarkable progress has been made over the past two decades in reducing deaths in children of less than five years.

He however noted that mortality in newborns linked to prematurity complications remains pre-occupying. In the world, a child out of 10 is born prematurely representing about 15 million babies born before the 8th month of pregnancy.  Of that figure, one million of them die per year representing about one death in every 45 seconds. “More than 90 percent of premature babies born in developing countries die in the first days of their life as compared to less than 10 percent in developed countries,” Dr. Koudio revealed.

He re-echoed that 28 percent of the cause of death in newborns in Cameroon is linked to prematurity reason why it is a major public health issue in the country. He said preventive and adequate care during pregnancy such as respect to prenatal consultation, prompt treatment of malaria, sleeping under mosquito nets, having a balanced diet, and swift transfer of suspected prematurity cases to health facilities, amongst other measures, can guarantee the birth of healthy newborn babies. He added the use of the mother kangaroo method to enhance the health of newborns whether premature or not.

The event was also an occasion for the Director of the Mother and Child Centre of the Chantal Biya Foundation, Prof. Paul Koki Ndombo to present what they do in rescuing newborns of prematurity complications. A guided visit by the Minister and entourage to the children’s ward of the centre was also part of the event.