The Government has been implored to increase health care personnel in the neo-natal wards to reduce the burden of preterm deaths.
Zimbabwe has a high burden of prematurity births, with about 12 percent of all babies being born prematurely.
Speaking during the 2021 World Prematurity Day last week, Sally Mugabe Central Hospital paediatrician and neonatologist Dr Marcia Mandizha, said the country needed to make concerted efforts to reduce deaths in preterm babies.
“When these babies come, they have challenges breathing because their lungs are premature,” she said.
“So, fortunately, we have acquired some CPAP machines through Government and through various donors which help these babies with breathing when they are born.
“But we need more of these machines to help the babies to breathe. And we also need more healthcare workers in order to take care of these babies because when they are born, they need a lot of care.
“Sometimes we actually need one nurse to take care of one baby. So, we need more nurses in our unit. We also need more monitors because they have a lot of complications, we need to be monitoring their oxygen levels at any time and we need to be monitoring their heart rate. We need more of these monitors in our units to be able to monitor these babies for them to survive.”
Sally Mugabe Hospital is a referral unit, hence takes care of many patients from other provinces.
Dr Mandizha said the hospital takes care of about 500 very low birth weight babies every year.
These are babies born with a weight less than 1 500 grams.
“We are saying as Zimbabwe, we want to reduce the deaths in preterm babies,” she said.
“We want to do everything we can in order to reduce the deaths.”
Paediatric Association of Zimbabwe neonatal committee chairperson Dr Gwendolin Chimhini said preterm babies needed a lot of support to enable them to live.
“Separation between parents and babies can cause severe and long-term health and developmental issues in newborns and it also affects parents’ mental health,” she said. “Therefore, we raise our voices on this year’s World Prematurity Day, uniting under the global call, ‘Zero Separation. Act Now! Keep parents and babies born too soon together’.”
About 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely, that is one in every 10 children.