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At least 200,000 premature infants are being born in Tanzania annually

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Parliament Deputy Speaker, Mr Job Ndugai lighting a candle to signal official opening of Premature Infants Day occasion, observed at Parliament premises in Dodoma, involving Members of Parliament.

In the recent past, Evidence for Action (E4A) had an audience with Members of Parliament, currently attending an on- going session in Dodoma during which time it seized such a rare opportunity to sensitize an issue ofpremature birth.

Welcoming the dignitaries in attendance at the gala dinner party, graced by Deputy Speaker, Mr Job Ndugai, the E4A Resident Executive Director, Mr Craig Ferla defined premature birth as either the same as preterm birth, or the birth of a baby before the developing organs are mature enough to allow normal postnatal survival.

For that very reason, he contended, such premature infants are at greater risk for short and long term complications, including disabilities and impediments in growth and mental development.

While significant progress has been made in the care of premature infants, but not in reducing the prevalence of preterm birth worldwide, Mr Ferla said the preterm birth as being among the top causes of death in infants in the developing countries, Tanzania included.

Describing the prevalence of preterm birth in the country as “kizungumkuti”, in Kiswahili, literally meaning a somewhat tricky situation or state of uncertainty, he presented to the law makers staggering statistics which suggest that at least 200,000 premature infants are born annually in Tanzania, 39,000 of whom don’t survive the first month of life.

The law makers looked a bit amazed when the E4A Director asked them searchingly whether they would keep quiet upon discovery that number of premature infants who died in Tanzania between 2000 and 2014 alone are estimated at 560,000, equivalent to an entire population of newly – established Katavi region or not.

In addition, he said, of 47,000 premature infants born alive, almost half of them do die during delivery, an untold tragedy which can be easily prevented from happening by 80%, using simple methods, at low costs and with the meagre resources available.

Mr Ferla paid glowing tributes to the government for having managed to reduce infant mortality rate in Tanzania, as required by United Nations Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs’) cluster No. 4, from 81 in every 1,000 babies born alive down to 54 in every 1,000 babies born alive.

It was at this particular juncture that all invited guests lit their candles as the Deputy Speaker was standing at a podium to give a brief speech.

Among other things Mr Ndugai thanked E4A for what he called awakening

Of the legislators’ interest in the highly sensitive premature infants issue, hitherto rarely publicized by the media.

To that effect, he urged all the Members of Parliament to go and take stock of incubators available in their respective constituencies to ensure that the plight of premature infants is fully addressed from now onwards.

Turning to the Parliament itself, he pledged with it to contemplate allocating sufficient funds for the Health and Welfare Ministry, besides challenging menfolk to collaborate with their beloved wives during the latters’ pregnancy, particularly in matters pertaining to attending clinic sessions.

 

Earlier on, Health and Social Welfare Deputy Minister, Dr Kebwe Stephen Kebwe and Chairpersons of four Parliamentary Committees – Defense and Security Committee (Anna Abdalah),  HIV / AIDS Committee (Mr Maeda Abdalah), Safe Delivery Committee (Mr Mtutura Abdalah Mtutura), Illicit Drugs Committee (Mr Albert Obama), Budgetary Committee (Mr Ole Rmedei) and Social Welfare Committee (Ms Margareth Sitta) addressed the audience one after the other. 

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