highest rates: Representative for the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) for the Eastern Caribbean Khin Sandi Lwin

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Lung infection the number one killer

Why are our babies dying?

By Sue-Ann Wayow sue-ann.wayow@trinidadexpress.com

LUNG infections are the number one killers of infants and children in Trinidad and Tobago.

This is according to Dr Rajindra Parag, head of the Paediatrics Department at the San Fernando General Hospital.

Parag said other influencing factors in the high infant mortality rate are cancers, "physical complications in children who are already damaged in some problems at birth", road traffic accidents, homicide, ingestion and injuries at home.

Last Thursday, representative for the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) for the Eastern Caribbean Khin Sandi Lwin said since the 1980s, Trinidad and Tobago had the highest under-five mortality rates in the Caribbean.

She said the country needed to find out why babies were dying more than they were five decades ago.

Parag said he was not sure whether newborn deaths were included in the infant mortality rate.

He said a baby was termed "newborn" during the first 28 days following birth.

However, he said that at the San Fernando General Hospital, newborn deaths have decreased by 50 per cent in the past five years.

He said usually there would have been approximately 100 deaths per year out of an average of almost 4,000 births annually, but recently there were approximately 50 deaths per year.

For this year, he said there was an average of two deaths per month.

Parag told the Sunday Express last week: "There has been a marked improvement in (the decrease in) newborn deaths in south Trinidad."

In developing countries generally, he said, children would suffer from infections, pneumonia, meningitis (bacterial infection of the brain or spinal cord), and cancers.

Parag said, "Some of the babies we see in the neonatal ward, they have significant problems, and later down they add to the figure. Like when we have premature babies, you do a lot of intensive care with them and they survive, but they have high morbidity, and then they die from pneumonia or (other complications). They are children who have been severely damaged at birth, they survive but they die later on. They contribute to the death rate."

This year, a vaccine was introduced to help prevent pneumonia and "that would help a lot", Parag said.

He suggested that clean surroundings and proper hygiene practised could lower the rate of infections.

And Dr Lackram Bodoe, chairman of the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) said last week the report he was compiling on maternal mortality was almost complete.

The Maternity Services Review Committee which Bodoe chairs was appointed by Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan to review maternity services in Trinidad and Tobago with the aim of identifying causes and making recommendations for the prevention of maternal deaths.

The committee is made up of experts in obstetrics, neonatology, midwifery, anaesthesia, family practice and health care administration with representation from the Ministry of Health, Regional Health Authorities, The University of the West Indies (UWI), Trinidad and Tobago Association of Midwives, Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association, and the Gynaecological and Obstetric Society of Trinidad and Tobago.

Last Friday, Bodoe said data from all public hospitals were collected and analysed and several reports pertaining to maternity services were also studied.

He said by December the report should be sent to Khan.

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