Newborn Survival Rates Improve Dramatically with Specialized Care Units
By Angela Walker
UDAIPUR, India, 9 November 2010 – Kiran Sharma stands watch over her six-day-old nephew huddled in an incubator under a pink blanket with teddy bears covering his frail body. The baby boy and his twin sister each weighed just over a kilo when they were born at seven and a half months.
“I was afraid when she was admitted,” said Kiran, relaying the story of her sister-in-law’s Priyanka’s delivery. “At the time of the birth, (their parents) were so afraid. We worried at the time that the babies would not recover.”
In Pictures - Improving Newborn Survival Rates
These infants are among the lucky ones admitted to a Facility-Based Newborn Care Unit (FBNCU) in Udaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The first FBNCU in the state was established with UNICEF support in the district of Tonk in January 2008. Now there are 34 FBNCUs in the Rajasthan.
Babies that arrive at the FBNCU often suffer low birth weight, prematurity, asphyxia or infections. The doctors and nurses that staff the unit are trained in the latest protocols and know how to use specialised equipment to treat delicate newborns to increase their chance of survival.
Eight states contribute to 75 per cent of infant mortality in India: Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Gujarat and Assam.
In an adjacent room in the Udaipur FBNCU, blue light washes over Kiran’s sister, Mamta Sharma, as she watches over her tiny niece. The twin’s sister is undergoing photo therapy for jaundice.
“I had to come as I was very worried about the babies. We made a small temple inside the house,” to pray for the infants’ survival, says Mamta in the glow of the blue light of the incubator. “I will thank the gods when we return.”
A corridor connects the maternal hospital to the newborn care unit just as a mother is connected to her unborn child by the umbilical cord, said Dr. R. L. Suman, Associate Professor of Paediatrics. “Babies that require critical care and can be transferred immediately,” he says.
Maternal mortality has a direct impact on infant mortality. Babies whose mothers die during the first six weeks of their lives are far more likely to die in the first two years of life than babies whose mothers survive.
“The survival of the child is dependent a lot on the survival of the mother,” said Dr. Avatar Singh Dua, Health Specialist in the UNICEF Rajasthan office.
Globally, every year over 350, 000 women die of pregnancy related causes and 99 percent of these occur in developing countries. India continues to 18 per cent of all global maternal deaths.
Karin Hulshof, UNICEF India Representative, paid a recent visit to the FBNCU in Udaipur and was touched and impressed by what she saw.
“It’s really wonderful to see the care and attention at this hospital,” she said. “This baby was born fifty minutes ago. And the mother, they’re cleaning her. She’s good. She got her attention. There are doctors. There is a nurse. Sixty deliveries a day – 1,800 deliveries per month. This is really amazing. This is the incredible India that I like. This is India pointing in the right direction.”
For more information and interviews, please contact:
Angela Walker, Chief of Communication, UNICEF India
Geetanjali Master, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Alistair Gretarsson, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Sonia Sarkar, Communication Officer- Media, UNICEF India