The most common birth defects in southeast Asia region, including Nepal, are heart defects, neural tube defects and Down’s syndrome, with the most severe defects occurring in middle and low resource settings, said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for southeast Asia.
“Birth defects are a major cause of still-births and neonatal mortality.
Those who survive birth defects often suffer long-term disability. These deaths and life-long sufferings cause untold miseries to individuals and families, and have negative socio-economic consequences,” she said in a press statement issued on the occasion of World Birth Defects Day today.
World Birth Defects Day comes amid the global spotlight on Zika virus disease and its strongly suspected causal relation with clusters of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities.
Microcephaly is one of many birth defects.
Globally, 1 in 33 newborns have birth defects and an estimated 2,76, 000 babies die within the first month as a result of them. Yet, birth defects remain under-recognised, read the statement.
The World Birth Defects Day is aimed at creating awareness about birth defects, which continue to be an important cause of childhood deaths, chronic illness and disability.
Dr Khetrapal Singh said, “The day is a reminder to all of us to further commit our efforts to ensuring a healthy and birth-defects free life for every new-born.”
According to WHO, birth defects can be genetic, infectious, nutritional or environmental in origin.
Creating awareness among the public about the causes of birth defects and empowering them to take preventive measures is an important step towards reducing their prevalence.
Many birth defects can be prevented by taking appropriate measures. Timely and cost effective measures can help prevent deaths and cure or minimise the effects of birth defects.
Rubella vaccination, adequate intake of folic acid, iodine through fortification of staple foods, and adequate antenatal care are key steps for prevention of birth defects.
“Simultaneously, making quality health care services available to provide early care for children born with birth defects can go a long way in reducing their burden,” she said.
In 2010, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution on birth defects calling all countries to promote primary prevention and improve the health of children with congenital anomalies.