Press Release: World Prematurity Day (17th November 2021): 15 million preterm born babies worldwide need a strong voice

The World Prematurity Day (WPD) has been celebrated annually on November 17 since 2009 and is used to raise awareness of the burden of preterm birth globally and its associated challenges. Preterm birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five; each year, about 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely, that is about 1 in 10 children. Several countries, organisations and networks around the world engage in different activities and events to show a commitment to action on addressing the problems associated with preterm birth. The theme for this year’s WPD is:

“Zero Separation. Act Now! Keep parents and babies born too soon together”

Separation between parents and babies can cause severe and long-term health and developmental issues in newborns and it also affects parents’ mental health. Therefore, we raise our voices on this year’s World Prematurity Day, uniting under the global call to “Act now! Keep parents and babies born too soon together”.

Also, as we “Countdown to 2030”, all countries must accelerate their collective efforts to reduce/end preventable newborn deaths. This is especially important in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Central and Southern Asia where about 80% of the global neonatal deaths occur. (1). Sub-Saharan Africa carries the highest of this burden, accounting for 42% of deaths, the highest premature birth rate of 12% and the highest deaths due to complications of prematurity. In Africa, the situation is compounded by a high birth rate and a slower annual rate of reduction in neonatal mortality rates. This would mean that without concerted efforts, almost 90% of countries in SSA will not meet the SDG target of reducing neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1000 live births by 2030.

The ANA plans for WPD 2021

This year, we would like to use WPD to officially introduce the African Neonatal Association (ANA) which was launched on 1st September 2021. To date ANA represents over 200 members from 42 countries and presents a unique opportunity for advocacy for the African newborn through collaboration between regions. The ANA expresses support for countries that already have a long history of celebrating WPD and also supports those countries who wish to start their WPD celebrations.

ANA is participating in WPD 2021 by several ways:

  • Supporting the public launch of the UNICEF/NEST 360 Implementation Toolkit for Small and Sick Newborn Care (SSNC) hosted by Save the Children’s SSNC CoP on 17th November 2021.
  • Providing a website where celebrations from different countries this year can be readily accessed. A short video about what our African Neonatal Association members, and member countries, have done to commemorate World Prematurity Day in the past will also be available on the website.
  • Encouraging member countries to have access to data relating to newborn health and prematurity specific data and in addition to use this year’s WPD to bring to limelight their country-specific data.
  • Supporting countries to launch their national neonatal association.

Dr Olufunke Bolaji

Chair: Implementation, Collaboration and Advocacy Committee

African Neonatal Association



1.             ENDING PREVENTABLE NEWBORN DEATHS and STILLBIRTHS by 2030 – Moving faster towards high-quality universal health coverage in 2020–2025 (July 2020)

2.             Lancet Glob Health 2019; 7: e37–46 Published Online October 29, 2018,Ụ̄

3.             Levels & Trends in Child Mortality Estimates developed by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (report 2020)

4.             SURVIVE and THRIVE Transforming care for every small and sick newborn (2020)

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