NAIROBI, November 2023 – 17 November marks global World Prematurity Day. This day raises awareness for the challenges of preterm birth and celebrates the lives of preterm infants and their families worldwide.
- Preterm birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five; each year, about 15 million babies worldwide are born preterm, that is about 1 in 10 children. 
- Prematurity is the leading cause of neonatal deaths in Kenya accounting for one third of neonatal deaths.
- Immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth between mother and infant has proven hugely beneficial for both, lowering mortality rates and instances of sepsis. 
- Continuous and prolonged skin-to-skin contact encourages breastfeeding and breastmilk feeding and paves the way for Kangaroo Mother Care as standard care practice, thus putting the family in the centre of all neonatal and maternal care.
- The Kenya Paediatric Association (KPA) joins the rest of the global community in celebrating World Prematurity Day 2023 and mourning the deaths of preterm babies in the ongoing conflict.
This year for World Prematurity Day, under the umbrella of “small actions BIG IMPACT: immediate skin-to-skin care for every baby everywhere”, we are raising awareness about the benefits of immediate skin-to-skin contact and Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) for preterm infants. Continuous and prolonged skin-to-skin contact between infant and parent is a central pillar of KMC. It encourages mother and infant to attempt breastfeeding, lowers stress levels, and strengthens family bonding. Recent studies show that skin-to-skin contact can (and should) be initiated immediately after birth, even before the newborn is considered clinically stable. Immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth improves thermal regulation, prevents infection, induces breastmilk, has positive physiological, behavioural, psychosocial, and neurodevelopmental effects, and reduces the risk of neonatal mortality by 40%.
Despite the benefits of skin-to-skin care for preterm and low birth-weight infants, implementing KMC as a practice has been a persistent challenge globally. It requires a paradigm shift in the “classical” newborn unit care model, which separates the mother and baby especially if the baby is born too small or too sick. This World Prematurity Day, we present a vision where mothers, newborns, and families form an inseparable centre around which the entire maternal-newborn care delivery is organised.
Although preterm babies form the largest group of paediatric patients in Kenya, their interests and needs, as well as the parents’ interests and needs, are hardly articulated publicly. World Prematurity Day raises awareness for the challenges surrounding preterm birth and educates people about risks and consequences. We hope to improve early detection during pregnancy, to promote innovative medical treatment options, to empower mothers and fathers in their roles, and to significantly reduce long-term consequences for children and their families.
At World Prematurity Day 2023, the Kenya Paediatric Association together with the Ministry of Health held a webinar on November 16th on Prematurity: Management, Complications and Prevention to create awareness in the country.
For more information, please visit: www.kenyapaediatric.org
 World Health Organization, Children: improving survival and well-being, 8 Sep 2020, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/children-reducing-mortality, last accessed 20 Oct 2023.
 World Health Organization, Kangaroo mother care: Implementation strategy for scale-up adaptable to different country contexts, 16 May 2023, https://iris.who.int/bitstream/handle/10665/367625/9789240071636-eng.pdf, last accessed 20 Oct 2023.