Amidst all Government’s continued efforts and support to the reduction of infant mortality, maternal death and preterm birth and death, Sierra Leone still records scary index of Twenty-Two Thousand Nine Hundred (22,900) premature births and Three Thousand Three Hundred (3,300) premature deaths a year.
This was confirmed by Dr. Alimamy Philip Koroma, Senior Medical Superintendent at the Princess Christian Maternity (Cottage) Hospital (PCMH) in Freetown while presenting a paper at the Antenatal Corticosteroids group work meeting organized by the UN Commission on Life Saving Commodities (UNCoLSC) in the United States of America.
The meeting was to update on Antenatal Corticosteroids Surveillance (ACS), the threatened preterm birth curriculum, the UNCoLSC ACS policies and the implementation of landscape analysis in UNCoLSC countries among other issues.
Dr. Koroma said Sierra Leone records 10% of preterm birth rate (babies born 37 weeks) and 11% low birth weight rate (babies born 2,500g). He said the index for babies born per year (28 weeks) is 1,100 whilst impaired preterm survivors per year is 500.
He said prematurity is a global leading cause of death for children under 5 and that the recent increasing rate of preterm births and deaths recorded in Africa is becoming very much scary to an extent that the need for African Governments and their health partners to pay more attention to addressing this crisis as soon as possible cannot be over emphasized.
Dr. Koroma noted that health sector readiness in the country is in active gear, adding that Corticosteroids is now on the list of essential medicines with a national level guidance or criteria for how to determine if a woman is at risk of imminent preterm birth.
He said in ACS prescription and administration, health care workers have been authorized to independently prescribe and administer full course of ACS, administer full course ACS with clinical supervision and also to administer a pre-referral first dose with clinical supervision.
He said Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICUs) or special care wards are now available at facilities giving full course ACS.
However, the doctor listed the lack of skilled workforce, a special midwifery, and diagnostics such as ultrasounds, transport and money for women at risk of preterm labor, capacity and training for health care providers among other issues as some of the implementation challenges and strengths facing preterm birth in the country.
He recommended that for strengths of Sierra Leone’s ACS implementation process, there must be trained midwives and doctors and availability of ultrasound to determine GA at hospitals. This he said must be accompanied with available drugs and equipment at hospitals and above all put guidelines in place for care of low birth weight babies at hospitals.
In addition, the doctor recommended that there must be pre-serves curricula including provision of ACS for women at risk of imminent preterm birth and an in-service curricula including provision of ACS for women at risk of imminent preterm birth.
By Aruna Turay