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Strengthening Women’s Healthcare to Stem Rising Preterm Births

A new study by the March of Dimes with the World Health Organization finds that globally each year almost 13 million babies are born prematurely—one of every ten newborns.  Four million of these preterm babies die in their first month of life. And those who do not die face lives of impairment. In Africa, the rate of premature birth is the highest in the world—almost 12 percent.  This translates into four million babies. The study suggests that in African and other poor countries, malnutrition, malaria, anemia, and poor prenatal care are the reasons for such high rates, and it calls for more research to fill gaps in the data of this growing global problem. Prenatal care for women in Africa is a major focus of a number of our members, including Family Care International, which works to make pregnancy and childbirth safer in East and West Africa through improved maternal health services, the John Dau Foundation, whose medical clinic in Duk, Sudan, provided the first prenatal care ever to  women in the southern Sudan, and Health Alliance International, which is helping the governments of Mozambique and Cote d’Iviore develop primary health care systems that include a focus on pregnant women. The March of Dimes study calls for investing in existing maternal and newborn programs to make them stronger while at the same time seeking new thinking and innovative approaches. Nowhere is the need greater than in Africa.