A healthy start in life

UNICEF is working to ensure the presence of qualified personnel and adequate equipment during childbirth and immediately following birth.

John Ngombua (translated from French by Dorsaf N. James)
Des nouveau-nés dans des couvertures colorées
UNICEF DRC Mulala
26 July 2021

23 days ago, Francine gave birth to her fifth child at the Jason Sendwe General Hospital in Lubumbashi in Haut-Katanga province. “I was not yet full term but I felt the labor pains”, recalls Francine, who immediately drove to the hospital for medical advice. “I came to the hospital for a consultation and here I am delivering a premature baby”, says the mother.

Une maman qui porte son bébé collé à la peau
UNICEF DRC Mulala

Still very small, the little girl sleeps peacefully, glued to her mother's chest and protected by a thick blanket and a hat. Born prematurely, she weighed only 1.580 grams at birth. After two weeks in an incubator, under oxygen and antibiotics in the neonatal department, the little girl is gradually gaining weight. In order to contribute to the health and the wellbeing of her baby, Francine carries her little girl skin-to-skin when she is not in an incubator. This method, very effective and easy to apply, has the advantage of transmitting the warmth and smell of the mother to her new-born. The new-born can also synchronize his breath with that of his mother.

It is thanks to the clinical mentoring program supported by the Swedish Government that the mother-kangaroo method was adopted at the Jason Sendwe General Hospital. UNICEF has also provided the neonatal unit with essential equipment, including furniture, incubators, oxygen tanks, heated tables for intensive care for babies, and survival blanket. Since then, the care capacity has increased, reaching an average of 60 newborns per month.

Un bébé qui dort dans une couveuse
UNICEF DRC Mulala

“Despite my 4 previous pregnancies, I was far from imagining that I was going to give birth to a premature baby and I would have lost my child without the assistance of the neonatal service”, admits Francine. Childbirth and the period immediately following birth are times when the woman and her newborn are extremely vulnerable. The most crucial intervention is ensuring the presence of a competent health worker at every birth.

“I have high hopes that I will leave here with my healthy child”, concludes Francine holding her little girl.

In Haut-Katanga province, dozens of nurses, midwives, doctors, and healthcare providers benefited from this reinforcement program, allowing hundreds of newborns to received appropriate care for a better life start.