When a parent dies, you lose your past, when a child dies, you lose your future. The crudest reality in the lives of parents is perhaps to see their children die soon after their birth or a few years later.
Quite naturally, parents expect to see their children grow and mature. Ultimately, parents expect to die and leave their children behind. This is the natural course of life events, the life cycle continuing as it should. The loss of a child is the loss of innocence, the death of the most vulnerable and dependent.
The death of a child signifies the loss of the future, of hopes and dreams, of new strength, and of perfection. A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. But...there is no word for a parent who loses a child, that's how awful the loss is!
Of the 15 million babies born too early each year, more than one million die due to complications related to preterm birth. Low birth weight with less than 2,500 grams due to prematurity and restricted growth in utero is also a major contributor of newborn and child deaths, as well as disability and non-communicable diseases globally.
In Bangladesh, nearly 62,000 newborns die annually with one-third of them born premature and 22 percent of them born with less than 2,500 grams in weight. "We can reduce the death of 75 percent children born preterm by utilizing our available facilities and expertise," said Ziaul Matin, an official of the UNICEF at a health-related seminar held here recently.
However, State Minister for Health and Family Welfare Zahid Malik told the seminar that the premature birth of children and lack of their proper care is a matter of utmost concern in Bangladesh. In this respect, he put the highest emphasis upon the maximum preparation during the birth of a preterm child.
"Still, around 60 percent children are born at home in Bangladesh," he said and gave a truly realistic suggestion that there must be at least a nurse with all preparations during the delivery, so that the mother could be sent to a nearby hospital in the case of any emergency.
Newborns are perhaps the most vulnerable population the world over. Preterm or babies born too early, less than 37 weeks gestation, are particularly at risk. Currently, prematurity is the leading cause of death among children under five around the world, and a leading cause of disability and ill health in later life.
Essential Newborn Care (drying, warming, immediate and exclusive breastfeeding, hygiene and cord care) as well as basic care for feeding support, infections and breathing difficulties can mean the difference between life and death for small babies.
That is why, experts suggest adequate efforts to identify women at risk of preterm labor and support them to give birth in a health facility that can offer extra care when needed, such as support for adequate feeding with breast milk, continuous skin to skin contact, antibiotics, and antenatal corticosteroids.
"Many pregnant mothers do not visit health centres for regular check up or cannot undergo it for various limitations. But we must ensure that the midwives can visit the pregnant mothers' houses and perform regular check up," Nowroj Jahan of the BRAC's Health Nutrition and Population Science Department said at the seminar.
In Bangladesh, BRAC runs 54 Maternal Health Care Centres with trained midwives taking due care of the pregnant mothers. "First, we stressed upon safe motherhood and child health care. In the case of preterm birth, the big challenge is to bring the pregnant mothers to the health centres for proper cheek up," she said.
To do this, it is critical that families, communities and health workers value small babies so that they receive the life-saving care. To turn the tide on these preventable deaths, it is required for action across the spectrum of care from adolescence and preconception, pregnancy, safe management of labor and delivery, and effective immediate and later postnatal care.
Mohammad Sharif, Director of the MCHS and LD-Directorate of the Family Planning, disclosed a unique information describing pregnancy at the adolescent age and also very small spaces between two births as the main causes of premature child birth in Bangladesh.
The national level profile provides the most current national-level information on the status of prevention and care for preterm birth and low birth weight in Bangladesh, where a number of risk factors remain relevant to preterm and low birth weight as well as the coverage of important care for women and newborns from pregnancy, labor and delivery and the postnatal period.
There is also information that provides insights into the health workforce, health policies, health information and community mobilization relevant to preterm birth and low birth weight. "Babies born premature often faces challenges of destruction of their Retina," said Professor Majibor Rahman of the ICMH, Matuail in Dhaka.
Much is already being done to prevent preterm birth and low birth weight and to improve outcomes for small babies.
Experts say care for small babies is an essential investment in both short-term and long-term. That is why, civil society bodies, health workers, communities and other partners must come together to enact a change to prevent babies from being born too early and too small and ensure that small babies get the critical life-saving care and nurturing they need.