Dr Chethana H S, Director and Chairperson-Donation Recommendation Committee, Neonates Foundation of India highlights that access to critical neonatal care can be a distant dream, and for many, it remains unattainable. Moreover, for many low-income families, the cost of NICU care is a staggering burden
In a world where the journey from conception to birth is often considered a miraculous and joyous event, some mothers find themselves facing the harsh reality of premature birth. Deliveries that occur before 37 weeks of pregnancy are referred to as premature births, and they provide serious difficulties for the newborn as well as their families. The Neonatal Intensive Care unit (NICU) becomes a temporary home for these tiny warriors, surrounded by machines, beeping gadgets, entangled wires, and tubes. The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have sounded an alarm that prematurity is a silent medical emergency, highlighting the urgency of addressing this issue globally.
In a country like India, where the ratio of hospital beds to the population is low, accessibility to NICU beds and affordable care compounds the gravity of the situation. NMR (Neonatal Mortality Rate) is a critical indicator of the health of nation, standing at 24.9 deaths per 1000 live births as of 2019-21 as per National Family Health Survey(NFHS-5) . India faces the uphill task of reducing it to 12 per 1000 live births by 2030, as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Every year, around a million babies in India pass away before they even reach their first month of life. This is a staggering quarter of the world’s burden. Infections, preterm birth, difficulties connected to the intrapartum period (birth hypoxia, or inability to breathe at birth), and congenital impairments are common causes of newborn mortality in India. Approximately one in four neonatal deaths (25 per cent) are the result of premature births and low birthweight. Extremely premature babies born before 28 weeks of gestation mostly have a birth weight of less than 1 kg and are very fragile and susceptible to severe sepsis and other complications. NICU care needs to be as safe and comfortable as the natural mother’s womb.
Access to critical neonatal care can be a distant dream, and for many, it remains unattainable. Moreover, for many low-income families, the cost of NICU care is a staggering burden. It often leads to financial strain, emotional stress, and limited access to the best medical facilities. Our country has a substantial low-income population, and we have witnessed firsthand the heartbreaking choices these families make due to financial constraints, compromising their newborns’ survival.
As government is taking several measures to help educate the population and reduce the neonatal mortality, organisations like Neonates Foundation of India steps in as a compassionate ally to underprivileged families, ensuring that financial constraints do not deprive their precious newborns of the specialised care they need. The foundation has supported nearly 50 newborns so far, with an overwhelming 96 per cent of them being moderate and extreme preterms. NFI’s helping hand is reaching out to rural and semi urban India as well. Amongst such beneficiaries ,one such tiny warrior has been a 26 weeker female child with 600 gm birth weight and NFI is ever grateful to its donor community to make this dream a pleasant reality. Many more of such infants, born with complex medical challenges such as severe infections and birth asphyxia, have successfully battled against the odds with the dedicated support of specialized neonatologists and nurses in level 3 NICUs.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is a lifeline for premature and critically ill newborns, providing specialised medical care and round-the-clock monitoring. Our Vision is to make quality neonatal intensive care accessible to newborns from economically weak and underprivileged sections of the society, through a network of our partner hospitals across the country. The importance of organisations like NFI cannot be overstated, especially on World Prematurity Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about the challenges faced by premature infants and their families. The foundation’s work goes beyond mere financial assistance; it symbolises the collective effort to give these fragile lives a fighting chance.
This World Prematurity Day let’s join hands in raising awareness, advancing research, assisting families, and promoting global collaboration in the fight for the health and welfare of preterm newborns.