Simple, Low-Cost Interventions Save Babies’ Lives

Simple, Low-Cost Interventions Save Babies’ Lives

Safoura Amadu and her son Ibrahim

Safoura Amadu is the 19 year-old mother of Ibrahim, who was born preterm on March 8, 2011 at 1.46 kg (3.2 pounds). Baby Ibrahim did not grow well in his first days of life. Safoura was very worried---her first child had died at birth---and she did not want to lose Ibrahim, her second child. Safoura sought help and when Ibrahim was ten days old she and the baby were admitted to the new Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) center at the Maternité Issakha Gazoby in Niger. Ibrahim’s weight had dropped to 1.07 kg (2.35 pounds).

The KMC center cared for Safoura and her child by showing Safoura how to take two simple, lifesaving measures: provide skin-to-skin contact for Ibrahim, by wrapping his unclothed body directly to her bare chest, and breastfeeding him exclusively. After 47 days at the KMC Centre, Safoura and two month-old Ibrahim were released to go home. Ibrahim weighed 2.12 kgs (4.67 pounds).

KMC, though simple and incredibly effective, has not been widely used in West Africa until recently. In December 2010, the MSH-managed, USAID AWARE II project collaborated with the West African Health Organization to set up two fully functional KMC demonstration centers in Accra, Ghana, and Dakar, Senegal to train providers from Niger, The Gambia, Cameroon, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Togo and Mauritania in key essential newborn care and KMC. The head of the Maternité Issakha Gazoby Neonatal unit where Safoura was treated was part of this training held in Dakar in December 2010. In March alone, the first month of implementation, the center admitted seven low birth weight infants and their mothers for KMC.

Safoura, who hails from a suburb of Niamey, says: “I am grateful for the establishment of the KMC center. I do not know what would have happened to Ibrahim if this centre had not been established.” She says she now understands the benefits of antenatal care because of all the information she has received from staff at the facility and will be an advocate when she leaves the center.

Two-thirds of the world’s 8.5 million child deaths each year are preventable with low-cost interventions. Among these, 4 million die during the neonatal period. The most frequent causes of neonatal death are infections (36%), asphyxia (23%), and prematurity/low birth weight (27%). To address these causes of morbidity in Niger, Togo, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso, USAID AWARE II is introducing a package of essential newborn care activities, including initiation of early breastfeeding and KMC that can help reduce neonatal mortality up to 90%.