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Caribbean observers World Birth Defects Day

Published:Tuesday | March 3, 2015 | 9:40 AM


The Caribbean yesterday joined the international community in observing World Birth Defects Day with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), noting that congenital anomalies, or birth defects, are the second-leading cause of death in children under five in the region.

PAHO said that combined with prematurity, asphyxia and sepsis, birth defects account for 44 per cent of deaths among children. Globally, birth defects affect one in 33 babies and cause 3.2 million disabilities each year.

"The commemoration of this day aims to raise awareness about this common, costly and challenging problem, but also to foster the development and implementation of prevention programmes and to expand health-care services for all people with birth defects," said Suzanne Serruya, director of PAHO's Latin American Center for Perinatology.

PAHO said congenital anomalies can have genetic, infectious or environmental origins, although in most cases it is difficult to identify a cause.

It said the most common serious birth disorders are heart and neural tube defects and Down's syndrome. Each year, an estimated 270,000 newborn babies die in the first 28 days of life from congenital anomalies, which are the fourth-leading cause of neonatal deaths after complications of premature delivery, neonatal infections and complications of childbirth, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.