(HealthDay News) — More than 3,000 children <5 years of age die worldwide each day from preterm birth complications, making it the leading cause of death among young children, according to the March of Dimes. That means that for the first time in history, complications from preterm births are the leading killer of young children around the globe.

Complications from preterm birth caused nearly 1.1 million of the 6.3 million deaths of children <5 years of age in 2013. Direct complications from preterm birth caused 965,000 deaths among children up to 28 days old, and another 125,000 deaths among children aged 1 month to 5 years, the report authors said. Other major causes of death among children <5 years of age include pneumonia (935,000 deaths) and childbirth complications (720,000 deaths).

Countries with the most children  <5 years of age who died from preterm birth complications were: India (361,600), Nigeria (98,300), Pakistan (75,000), Democratic Republic of the Congo (40,600), China (37,200), Bangladesh (26,100), Indonesia (25,800), Ethiopia (24,400), Angola (15,900), and Kenya (13,300), according to the report. Countries with the highest percentage of <5 years of age deaths directly resulting from preterm birth complications included: Macedonia (51%); Slovenia (47.5%); Denmark (43%); Serbia (39.8%); the United Kingdom (38.7%); Hungary (37.4%); Slovakia (34.9%); Poland (34.8%); Republic of Korea; and Switzerland (32.7%).

The global average percentage of deaths <5 years od age directly due to preterm birth complications is 17.4%. The rate in the United States is about 28%, or about 8,100 deaths a year. The United States ranks 141st on the list of 162 countries, followed by Oman, Georgia, Egypt, Canada, Germany, and Qatar. Monday, November 17 has been designated World Prematurity Day. The researchers announced $250 million in new funding to study ways to prevent or reduce complications of preterm birth within three to five years. The effort will involve more than 200 researchers.

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