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U.N.-Sponsored Report Finds 1 In 10 Infants Born Prematurely Worldwide

Fifteen million infants, or nearly one in 10 worldwide, “are born premature every year, and 1.1 million of those infants die, according to a U.N.-sponsored report released Wednesday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Premature birth is the leading cause of death for newborn infants and is on the rise globally, said the report led by the March of Dimes, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children and the World Health Organization,” the news service writes (5/2). “For the report, preterm was defined as 37 weeks of completed gestation or less, the standard World Health Organization definition,” USA Today notes (Healy, 5/3). According to the report, “[p]reterm births account for 11.1 percent of the world’s live births, 60 percent of them in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” and, “[i]n the poorest countries, on average, 12 percent of babies are born too soon, compared to nine percent in higher-income countries,” the U.N. News Centre writes (5/2).

“In poor countries, where most of the deaths occur, the main causes of premature delivery are infections, malaria, HIV, and the high number of adolescent girls getting pregnant,” the Guardian writes. “In rich countries, 90 percent of babies born before 28 weeks live,” while “[i]n poor countries, only 10 percent will do so,” the newspaper notes (Boseley, 5/2). According to the Associated Press, “Three-quarters of the deaths could be prevented by spreading some simple, inexpensive treatments to the neediest countries, the report concludes” (Neergaard, 5/2). “Experts at the U.N. say simple and inexpensive care, like antiseptic cream to prevent cord infection, … steroid injections given to mothers to help fetal lung development, and antibiotics to fight infection, can help keep premature babies alive,” BBC News writes (5/2). The New York Times examines premature births in the U.S., which “does worse than any Western European country and considerably worse than Japan or the Scandinavian countries” (McNeil, 5/2).