March 3 – World Birth Defects Day

March 3 - World Birth Defects Day. Click for more information

Congenital anomalies (CA) are the main cause of infant mortality in developed countries.

The purpose of this Day around the world is to raise public awareness about the causes of CA, introduce CA primary prevention programs, expand the network of informational resources and care services for patients and their families.

The problems associated with CA are particularly relevant in Ukraine. Population monitoring of CA based on international standards has been carried out for more than 15 years in the Rivne, Volyn, and Khmelnytsky provinces and annually detects over 1,500 affected babies. CA are the cause of nearly 25% of infant (under 1 year of age) mortality cases.

Many CA can be prevented. Thus, 50% of Neural Tube Defects (NTD) can be prevented by fortifying (enriching) flour with folic acid (vitamin B9), which is not conducted in Ukraine ( Such programs have already been implemented in over 70 countries of the world and have been operating for more than 20 years. The time passed and millions of people covered by the programs did not demonstrate any evidence of the harm of food enrichment with vitamin B9. It should be noted that the frequency of NTD in Ukraine is the highest in Europe. During 2000-2015, 1,276 NTD cases were registered in Rivne, Khmelnytsky, and Volyn provinces. At least 650 children could be born healthy if folic acid flour fortification was introduced in Ukraine. According to experts’ estimates, due to fortification of flour with folic acid in Ukraine, 800 cases of NTD could be annually prevented, which means that 800 children could be saved from death and lifelong disability! NTD prevention is economically advantageous, since the cost of fortification of flour by folic acid is 20 times less than the cost of medical care. Ukraine already produces flour fortified with folic acid, but only for export. The introduction of mandatory folic acid flour fortification in Ukraine is vital, feasible and urgent.

The prenatal effects of alcohol are one of the most common causes of mental disorders in children. Our research suggests that over 3% of pregnant women use alcohol at high doses, which can lead to child impairment even before birth. Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) are at risk of social orphanhood as 41% of them get into a children’s home. Children with FAS often die before reaching the age of 1 year (7.1%)!

Ionizing radiation is considered to be one of the important factors that cause CA. This circumstance is very relevant in Ukraine in connection with the consequences of the Chornobyl disaster.

OMNI-Net draws the attention of public health administrators, Ukrainian society, CA monitoring systems and the international community to the epidemic of neural tube defects, which can be prevented. We support the global initiative to prevent birth defects, namely the enrichment (fortification) of food products with vitamin B9 (folic acid). OMNI-Net and more than 50 other leading international organizations, representing the global communities on nutrition and children’s health, have signed a letter of appeal in support of the draft resolution “Accelerating efforts for preventing micronutrient deficiencies, spina bifida and other neural tube defects through safe and effective food fortification” adopted by the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the agenda of the 76th World Health Assembly.

Since the full-scale russian invasion of Ukraine, OMNI-Net launched the initiative “Help us Help Them” – an initiative to help Ukrainian children with special needs.

We invite you to join and share!

As well we invite you to get acquainted with videos and materials on the prevention of CA:

folic acid

The introduction of mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid in Ukraine is vital, possible and urgent. The number of NTD can be reduced by 50%.

Ukrainian Teratology Information System (UTIS) – a site in Ukrainian about the negative prenatal effects of medications and other teratogenic factors on children’s health.

Updated: 2023/07/04 — 09:30