Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and the Ivory Coast have the highest rates of premature births in Africa, according to a new report by UN agencies.
The report released by the World Health Organization, Unicef and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) shows that preterm birth is now the leading cause of child deaths globally.
It accounts for more than one in five of all deaths of children occurring before their fifth birthday.
Often, where babies are born determines if they survive.
Of every 10 babies born globally, one is pre-term. And every 40 seconds, one of those babies dies. After every preterm death is a trail of loss and heartbreak.
This is according to the updated estimates from WHO and Unicef, prepared with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, on how widespread preterm births are.
The report also suggests that preterm birth rates have not changed in any region in the world in the past decade. At least 152 million babies were born too soon from 2010 to 2020.
“There is now no excuse for silence. We now have in our hands the devices and the knowledge to change outcomes for our most vulnerable newborns,” said one of the co-authors, Dr Nahya Salim from Tanzania.