May 2007, The First Sense of Life – the Breath And Warmth of ... Father
“It is a girl” said the doctor “born at 13:10, 17 February 2007.” A minute later, Bahtiar, 25, the new father, had the three-kilo newborn at his chest as he held this new life. His wife Mira, 24, had had the baby surgically due to her health and the newborn could not be put on her breast.
“When the doctor put the baby on me, it was a unique feeling without comparison. It really made a special bond between me and my new daughter” recalled Bahtiar. His eyes were shining with pride when he saw how his baby bore a real resemblance to him. Mira was happy to see her husband so attentive to the baby and herself.
Dias, their three-year-old son, came later to see the new arrival. He tiptoed in to meet his sister. The baby’s bed was too high for him to make out her face. He concluded that it would be much better for her at home in her tiny cradle.
The new born girl, like every second baby in Kyrgyzstan, was born in a Baby Friendly Hospital. Such places observe the UNICEF/WHO joint declaration on “Ten steps to successful breastfeeding”. Baby Friendly Hospitals have a written breastfeeding policy. Health care staff in such hospitals are trained in the skills necessary to implement this policy. Pregnant women are informed about the benefits and management of breastfeeding and mothers are helped to initiate breastfeeding within half an hour of birth and encouraged to breastfeed on demand.
Mira could hardly remember the time when some years ago when the system dictated that newborns were kept in a separate room and brought to mothers for a short time to feed them at a certain intervals. When she had given birth during that period she remembered listening intently to try and distinguish her baby’s cry among the screaming chorus emanating from the babies’ room.
Now her new baby stays with her all day long. “I really can hardly think of anything else to add to improve the services we get here,” Mira commented when all the family got together in her hospital room.
UNICEF’s support for the Kyrgyz health sector
The first maternity hospital in Kyrgyzstan was certified as ‘Baby Friendly’ in 2000 with the help of extensive training provided by UNICEF and its partners. By 2007, half of all maternity hospitals in Kyrgyzstan had completed the necessary training and had received certificates confirming their new status.
UNICEF’s activities in Kyrgyz hospitals are supported by advocacy efforts. Mother and child health is one of the main priorities in the Republic, but requires a bigger budget to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity rates, which are still very high in Kyrgyzstan. According to research supported by UNICEF in 2006, one in seventeen Kyrgyz children do not reach their fifth birthday. More than a hundred mothers die every year during delivery from preventable causes.
A substantial proportion of such deaths are relatively easy to prevent at household and local community level. This, along with the growing migration of doctors accounts for UNICEF’s strategy shift towards building the knowledge and skills of caregivers, especially in rural areas, to combat stunting and a range of other health problems easily soluble through better health practices at household and community level.