Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia (Photo Courtesy: www.observerbd.com)
The first World Birth Defects Day is being observed on 3 March, 2015, to put the spotlight on this under-recognised problem.
The World Birth Defects Day is an initiative of 12 global health organizations to raise awareness about the occurrence of birth defects, develop and implement primary prevention programs, and expand referral and care services for all persons with birth defects.
In many countries, birth defects are one of the leading causes of death in infants and young children. Infants who survive and live with these conditions are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities.
Birth defects are common, costly and critical health challenges globally and particularly in the South-East Asia Region which reported 49 000 new-born deaths due to birth defects in 2013.
"But a large number of these deaths can be prevented with cost effective measures through the existing health care systems. On this occasion WHO urges countries to take measures to prevent as well as minimise the sufferings of children born with birth defects, with timely and appropriate care," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia regional office
The most common birth defects are heart defects, neural tube defects and Down's syndrome, with 94% of the severe ones occurring in middle and low resource settings.