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Namibia, 1 March 2018: Kangaroo mother care

© UNICEF Namibia/2018/Mutseyekwa

By Tapuwa Loreen Mutseyekwa

Oshana Region, Namibia, 1 March 2018 – In the maternity ward of Oshakati referral hospital in the Oshana Region, 24 years old Matundu Iumue places her tiny baby (who has not been named yet) to her bare chest. Sister Miriam Matheus then ties a wrapper tightly around Matundu to hold the baby firmly into a pouch position and takes the new mother through the steps of Kangaroo Mother Care to support and hasten the growth of her prematurely born baby.

Matundu has had a premature delivery before, but she is still very unnerved at holding her new baby, who was born at 28 weeks gestation and weighing just under 1.2kg. She therefore welcomes the support she gets from Sister Miriam and smiles radiantly at having mastered this new skill with a lot of ease.

“As a mother, you always want to hold and cradle your new born, but when a baby is tiny and fragile, it is difficult,” says Natundu. “I am happy that Sister Miriam has told me about Kangaroo Mother Care, now my baby will be next to me always.”

© UNICEF Namibia/2018/Mutseyekwa
Matundu Iumue holds her baby firmly into a pouch position of Kangaroo Mother Care to support and hasten the growth of her prematurely born baby.

Unplanned pregnancies, not attending ante natal classes, high alcohol intake by mothers, maternal infections and home deliveries are some of the major contributing factors for low weight or premature births. Without appropriate care, low birth weight babies risk physical or mental delays or impairments in life. They also risk death if specialized care and support lack. Currently neonatal mortality rate for Oshana Region is 13/1000, while the national rate is 20 per 1000 live births.

Oshakati Hospital, which is an intermediate referral hospital for 10 districts, receives on average 41 per cent of its new born baby admissions being of low weight or being babies born prematurely. These babies are referred here for specialized attention to save their delicate lives. Providing good warmth is critical to keeping the babies alive. However the 25 available incubators in the hospital’s neonatal unit are not enough to cater for the high volumes of babies requiring this specialized support. In the absence of enough incubator spaces, babies sometimes share an incubator.

“Incubators also separates the mother from her baby. This removes the emotional bonding between the mother and baby and makes it difficult for breastfeeding to be introduced early,” says Sister Miriam, as she spells out the many benefits of Kangaroo Mother Care, to which she been introduced through Every New Born Action Plan (ENAP) implementation.

Since 2017, Sister Miriam, together with nine of her colleagues from the region have received increased support, new knowledge and skills through training in Emergency Obstetrics (EmONC) and Neo natal health and Integrated Management of Newborn and Childhood Illness (IMNCI). These regular trainings of health facility professionals have provided specialized life-saving skills and new born care including new-born resuscitation and Kangaroo Mother Care. The health professionals have also sensitized on the how to regularly engage with mothers and other caregivers on the best ways to take care of low birthweight babies.

Beyond the training, the hospital has now dedicated wing to immediately introduce Kangaroo Mother Care as a cheap and readily available alterative to putting babies in incubators. Today, Matundu is with six other mothers in this specialized wing and each mother is serving as a ‘human incubator’ to their precious babies. With each day, babies gain weights of between 15-30g and become ready for discharge when they have reached at least 1.75kg.



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