The Golden Minute: Saving Newborns in Democratic Republic of the Congo

 {Photo: MSH}Mushombe, one of the babies saved by an HBB-trained staff, with his happy mother in Lemera General Hospital.Photo: MSH

Baby Mushombe entered the world through natural delivery—and immediately struggled to breathe. Respiratory distress could have cost him his life, as it does many infants in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where over 118,000 newborns died in 2012, according to the World Health Organization.

Fortunately for Mushombe, he was surrounded by a team of midwives and assistants who had mastered Helping Babies Breathe® (HBB)—a resuscitation technique developed for environments with limited resources.

“I had given up hope,” Mushombe’s mother recalled, “but then I saw the team jump into action. Five minutes after giving birth, I was so happy to see my baby alive and without health problems—thanks to the midwives’ skills.”

With simple equipment and methods, HBB helps babies start breathing during the first minute of life, a critical period known as The Golden Minute®.  The US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP) trained providers throughout 78 health zones in HBB. 

The health zone of Lemera, in Sud Kivu Province, where Mushombe was born, had a particularly high rate of newborn mortality before integrating HBB into health care training courses. But between January and March 2015, the two sites in Lemera that incorporated HBB saved the lives of 31 of 32 infants born with respiratory distress.

“We owe our gratitude to DRC-IHP and USAID, for helping to reduce neonatal mortality at our hospital by conducting the HBB training for the maternity team and donating two resuscitation kits,” said Etienne Bwirabukiza, nursing director of Lemera General Referral Hospital.

Led by Management Sciences for Health, with partners the International Rescue Committee and Overseas Strategic Consulting, Ltd., DRC-IHP worked to improve the health of Congolese in 78 health zones in four provinces. IHPplus now works in 83 health zones.

[This is 1 of 12 stories in the 2016 special edition Global Health Impact newsletter. Click here to read more.] {Photo: Gwenn Dubourthournieu}This is 1 of 12 stories in the 2016 special edition Global Health Impact newsletter. Click here to read more.Photo: Gwenn Dubourthournieu