Of the estimated 6.3 million deaths of children under age five in 2013, complications from pre-term births accounted for nearly 1.1 million deaths - over 3,000 children dying daily from pre-term birth complications, findings showed.

"This marks a turning of the tide, a transition from infections to neonatal conditions, especially those related to premature births, and this will require entirely different medical and public health approaches," said Joy Lawn from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who is a member of the research team.

"The success we have seen in the ongoing fight against infectious diseases demonstrates that we can also be successful if we invest in prevention and care for pre-term birth," Lawn added.

Since 2000, the worldwide mortality rate of children under-five has declined dramatically from 76 to 46 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013.

According to Lancet study, the countries with the highest numbers of children under-five dying from pre-term birth complications each year are: India (361,600), Nigeria (98,300), Pakistan (75,000), Democratic Republic of the Congo (40,600), China (37,200), Bangladesh (26,100), Indonesia (25,800), Ethiopia (24,400), Angola (15,900) and Kenya (13,300).

Some of the highest rates of pre-term deaths are in West Africa, particularly in the countries currently being decimated by Ebola, where the risk will now be even higher given the challenges faced in those countries, notably Sierra Leone and Liberia.

To raise awareness about increasing deaths from complications from premature births, more than 200 countries, non-government organisations, UN agencies, medical and health organizations will participate in the Fourth World Prematurity Day Monday.

"On World Prematurity Day, I urge all partners to recognise the vital importance of addressing prematurity as we strive to improve women's and children's health," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

 

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