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Just born and surviving against all odds

© UNICEF/ 2009
A mother feeds her child at the UNICEF-supported SNCU facility which specialises in neonatal care and management

Anjali Singh

Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh: Hemalata is a proud mother of a young baby boy. The only difference is that unlike most new babies born healthy, her son had to fight to survive.

Weighing just 1.5 kgs at birth despite being a full term baby, Hemalata's poor diet and unstable emotional condition affected the foetus in the womb. "She would not eat well and kept getting very angry all through her pregnancy which caused her to have such a weak baby,” said Hemlata’s mother. “We did not expect her baby to survive. That's why as soon as she went into labour we brought her to the Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) in Lalitpur, where the doctors and nurses took good care of him and the baby is doing well now."

But Hemlata is not alone. Kusum, who was married when she was 11 years old, had to go through three abortions as her weak physical state did allow her to carry her baby to full term. "This time my baby survived I believe because of SNCU where he was brought soon after birth. I am happy that despite being so small he is feeding well and gaining strength. All thanks to care he is receiving at this special hospital for babies."

"The initiation of such a facility was made keeping in view that Uttar Pradesh  has an infant mortality rate much higher than the national average and Lalitpur has among the highest infant mortality rates in the districts in the state,” explains Uttar Pradesh UNICEF’s Health Specialist, Dr Gaurav Arya. “An urgent need was felt for specialized care for neonates apart from highly skilled neonatal care and support which can bring down the infant mortality rate in the district."

Such success stories are becoming common ever since SNCU was set up five months ago by UNICEF at Lalitpur; with the help of Department of Health Government of Uttar Pradesh and the National Rural Health Mission.

The need for specialised care for newborns.

"The initiation of such a facility was made keeping in view that Uttar Pradesh has an infant mortality rate much higher than the national average and Lalitpur has among the highest infant mortality rates in the districts in the state,” explains Uttar Pradesh UNICEF’s Health Specialist, Dr. Gaurav Arya. “An urgent need was felt for specialized care for neonates apart from highly skilled neonatal care and support which can bring down the infant mortality rate in the district."

A fact that is corroborated by Vimla, who was married when she was 13 years old and was pregnant with her first child soon after, "I was not keeping very well throughout my pregnancy and experienced a lot of pain in my back. In my seventh month, while working at home, I had a severe pain in the back and within two hours my child was born. He was small but I thought I could manage him if I kept him warm. So I covered him in straw and cared for him for 15 days. But when he began vomiting a lot, I became scared and I rushed to the SNCU in Lalitpur, where the doctors told me that if I had delayed seeking care for another day my son would not have survived."

Everyday a new success story is created at the SNCU. Most cases, however, have not been recorded. To address this information gap, the facility is putting systems in place to capture the information.

Linking additional services to make the initiative sustainable

"Most children when discharged are quite well and the doctors here ask the mothers to bring them back for a follow up check up”, said District Health Nutrition Technical Care Co-coordinator, Dr Paliwal. “But most don't come as they are living in villages linked poorly by transportation. Now we are working on a system to keep a record of patients’ addresses and telephone numbers and a health worker will be sent to make a follow-up check on the well being of the child and mother post their discharge from the hospital."

Another facility to be provided to the pregnant women and critically ill patients in surrounding villages is a transportation facility.

Due to start from the first week of February 2009, this facility will ferry patients and will further cut down the risk to expectant mothers in labour. It is common for these women to develop complications which are compounded further when they have to travel in buses and bullock carts to reach the hospitals to give birth.

Quite a heart warming development this is, as Lalitpur too will soon have its share of a child's happy laughter echoing in its scenic valleys rendered silent when it clocked the highest infant mortality rate. All thanks to SNCU now functional here.

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