The National Association of Nigerian Paediatric Nurses has urged government to invest in capacity building for healthcare practitioners to boost the dearth of paediatric nurses and reduce preterm death rate.

Mrs Olubunmi Lawal, the National President of the association, made the call in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday in Abuja during the commemoration of 2018 World Prematurity Day.

The day is celebrated annually on November 17, to raise awareness about preterm births, concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide.

Preterm birth also known as premature birth is the birth of a baby at less than 37 weeks gestational age.

According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 15 million babies are born preterm each year, accounting for about one in 10 of all babies born worldwide.

It further identified Nigeria as number three among 10 top countries with high rate of preterm births of 773,600.

Lawal, who decried the dearth of manpower in the paediatric nursing profession, however, identified it as a contributing factor to the rate of deaths associated with preterm births.

She emphasised that babies born preterm required special care to ensure their survival and good health.

She specifically noted that such care could only be rendered by well-skilled professionals, adding that a large number of nurses lacked skills and required training to effectively render optimal care for such babies.

The president further decried the burden of preterm births and its associated deaths in the country as well as the rating of Nigeria as the third largest country globally with high rate of preterm births. She described this as unacceptable.

According to her, there is need for government to give attention to training of more professionals in the area of preterm care to ensure drastic reduction of preterm death in the country.

She said “we need more paediatric nurses, we need a lot of neonatologists, so in this regard capacity building is required.

“By the time they are trained, we will have enough number of healthcare practitioners particularly the nurses who are trained to take care of these babies.

“Such efforts will also promote teamwork because one person cannot do it. A single healthcare profession cannot do it hence we are calling on multisectoral collaboration.

“In Nigeria, we have very few paediatric nurses and if we have more skilful hands to give quality healthcare services to newborn particular the preterm babies, there will be a remarkable reduction in the death rate.

Lawal identified some causes of preterm birth to include multiple gestation or delivery, viral infections, high blood pressure, obesity, lifestyle choices like alcohol consumption, congenital anomalies, among others.

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