Rushing to save Fraxan
Hands-on skills and patience save a neonate’s life in Ethiopia
Dunadumo, Somali Region Ethiopia 2 May 2023 - When Amino Bashir, 25, arrived at the Dunadumao Health Centre in the Somali region of Ethiopia, she was in extended labour. “I immediately admitted her to the delivery room. The fetal heartbeat was weak, and her labour was progressing slowly. It was a critical moment for the mother and her unborn child,” says Selamawit Asnake, the midwife.
The next few hours were bittersweet and full of anxious moments.
Amino’s family were waiting outside for the good news, but it didn’t come as it should. There was no sound of a crying baby. “Allow us to take the body. What good can you do if the infant is dead,” claimed the family.
In fact, Amino has a history of stillbirth and abortion in the past, and no wonder why her family lost hope so easily. But not Selamawit, the midwife.
The midwife continued to resuscitate the baby pumping oxygen in his mouth and nose with the bag and mask ventilation. She continued the process for several minutes, thanks to her hands-on skills. Then a miracle happened. Amino's baby started to move and make a wheezing sound. He was grunting.
Selamawit’s next move was to refer the baby to the Fik hospital where there is oxygen and advanced care. It was the right decision. Immediately at the hospital the baby was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and stabilized.
“ I didn’t expect my baby to survive. I thought I was going to lose yet another baby. But this is just a miracle,” says Amino, relieved from all the ordeals. Amino later named her child Fraxan, which means happiness. A week later when Selamawit went to see the baby, it was a different situation. Fraxan was being breastfed comfortably laying on his mother’s arms.
Childbirth should be a moment of celebration and joy for families. Yet in 2021, nearly 102,000 newborns died in Ethiopia in the first 28 days of life primarily from preventable causes. Prematurity or low birth weight, birth asphyxia or birth complications, and infections are major causes of death. In conflict and emergency circumstances, the vulnerability of newborns increases as access to services is reduced or disrupted, resulting in a larger number of neonatal deaths. In the Somali region where Fraxan was born, 101 children died out of every 1000 live births, the highest rate in the country. Furthermore, neonatal conditions account for 44.6 per cent of under-five fatalities.
UNICEF with support from the Irish government is building the capacity of health workers like Selamawit with hands-on maternal and newborn health through mentorship, training, and provision of job aids. In addition, UNICEF with the support of implementing partners mobilizes women's support groups so that they can easily identify pregnant women in the villages and encourage them to visit health facilities at an early stage of their pregnancy.
Amino would love to see her son attending school in a few years. And for him to get there, she understands that she needs to keep him healthy from infections, which can be the next threat to her precious baby boy.