About 128,000 babies are born prematurely each year, out of which approximately 8,400 die before they turn five.
A Senior Lecturer at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Ghana, Dr Lillian Akorfa Ohene, made this known at a stakeholders’ engagement to mark Premature Day in Ho last Thursday.
The event was organised jointly by the Jay Foundation, a Ghanaian non-governmental organisation, and the Ho Teaching Hospital.
It was on the theme: “A parent’s embrace - a powerful therapy, enable skin-to-skin contact from the moment of birth.”
The term premature refers to babies born before the end of the full term of gestation, especially before 37 weeks of pregnancy is completed.
They are also referred to as preterm babies.
Right to respectful care
She said the engagement was important for women to have a right to respectful care and treatment before, during and after pregnancy, alongside their babies.
Respect for the parents’ right to information and consent in all treatments and interventions, inviting them to participate in medical rounds is a powerful tool to make them ready to provide the required embrace for their child.
She said it was vital to recognise parents as the ultimate caretakers for their babies, listen to their concerns and provide psychosocial support for their own well-being.
“This will empower parents to have the confidence and knowledge to look after their babies, allowing them to play a central role in their child’s care,” Dr Ohene added.
“That will also help implement the concept of family-centred care, one of the fundamental principles of paediatric health care, which conforms to global standards,” she explained.
Dr Ohene highlighted the need to promote Kangaroo Care, which involved skin-to-skin contact between the newly born baby and the mother, saying fathers could also provide the care to the baby.
“Immediate, continuous Kangaroo Care after birth provides positive, protective effects for the newborn and mother: better thermal regulation, infection prevention, improved breastfeeding and a facilitation of physiological, behavioural, psychosocial and neurodevelopmental effects,” she added.
Dr Ohene, who is also the Head of Department of Public Health, UG, said that activity also allowed fathers to play active roles via the skin-to-skin care for positive emotional, and physical bonding with their newborns.
The Founder of the Jay Foundation, Naa Kuorkor Mayne-Eghan, earlier urged the media to create greater public awareness of prematurity and encourage fathers to also play very active roles as caregivers to their preterm babies.
She pointed out that prematurity was neither a curse nor a myth, and re-affirmed the foundation’s stance to continue to support neonatal intensive care units across the country with great zeal and resources to ensure that mothers were not separated from their preterm babies.
As part of activities marking the day, Jay Foundation donated a large consignment of food and medical items worth about GH¢60,000 to the HTH to support preterm babies and their mothers.
Among the 39 medical items were neonate baby cots, infusion pumps, nasal sponges, oxygen tubing, feeding bottles, comfort hydrogen pads and Enfamil baby milk.
The food items included rice, beans, palm nuts, milk, eggs, bottled water and fruits.