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ABOUT five infants in Namibia were reported to have died due to suffocation while sleeping since the beginning of June this year.
On 2 June, 18-month-old Mulamba Tjipikita was left sleeping by her mother at Okapuka village in the Omusati region.
“The mother went to work in the field during harvesting, and when she returned the baby was not breathing and was pronounced dead after she was rushed to hospital,” reported crime investigations coordinator for the Omusati region deputy commissioner Malakia Simaho.
Two more infant deaths were reported in the region this month involving two babies dying due to suffocation.
A month-old baby died of suffocation after she was breastfed and put to sleep.
Another mother woke up one morning to discover her four-day-old baby, who was sleeping next to her, had died.
According to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, most sleep-related suffocation deaths among babies less than a year old happen because infants' airways get blocked by pillows, blankets, cushions, and mattresses, among others.
“Some 85% of all deaths caused by suffocation and strangulation in bed occur from birth to six months. Accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed occur when something limits a baby's breathing.
“Other causes could be aspiration, which is very common, and the dangerous part could be when foods and liquids enter the baby's airways and lungs.
“Aspiration can also happen to an infant with underlying issues, such as muscular swallowing dysfunction acid reflux disease, or a structural abnormality,” says ministry spokesperson Walter Kamaya.
He says support should be provided to first-time mothers.
“Mothers should further ensure that babies' food and liquids are swallowed properly. Always place your baby on its back when sleeping,” Kamaya says.
Anna Shinana is a freelance contributor to The Namibian.