Helping newborns thrive
In three hospitals in southern Nepal, the establishment of Kangaroo Mother Care units with UNICEF support is helping to ensure underweight and preterm newborns have the best chance of surviving
Parsa, Nepal: Walk into the KMC unit of the Narayani Hospital in Parsa District in southern Nepal on a given day, and you are bound to find caregivers on the bed or recliners, holding their newborns close to their bodies, both bound together with cloth.
These caregivers, under the guidance of healthcare workers, are learning to carry out KMC or Kangaroo Mother Care, known as Mayako Angalo (“a loving embrace”) in Nepali. KMC is a non-medical method whereby parents initiate skin-to-skin contact with their little ones in a bid to keep them warm and help them grow.
This can be a crucial intervention, especially in the case of preterm and low birthweight babies, helping them gain weight through improved breastfeeding and stronger bonds with the parents.
Narayani is one of three hospitals in the country’s southern plains where UNICEF has supported the establishment of these KMC Units, following needs assessments that showed high demand for such services. This was done in coordination with the medical superintendents, matrons and nursing in-charges at each of the health facilities so as to understand the specific needs, available space and required resources for setting up the units.
However, even with the units in place, there was also a need to strengthen the skills of healthcare workers themselves with regards to providing KMC.
“We were struggling at first to get the KMC unit operational,” admits Hema Thapa, nurse administrator at the Narayani Hospital. “We just didn’t have the confidence that we would be able to treat low-birthweight babies."
To address this, UNICEF, together with the Simulation Society of Nepal, conducted a series of skills trainings on KMC for healthworkers working in units dedicated to the care of small and ill newborns, KMC and labour room, in late 2020. Owing to COVID-19, however, and the associated travel restrictions, these sessions were initially provided through a virtual modality, later followed up with in-situ simulation sessions.
“Three months after the training, we were able to start KMC services at the hospital,” Hema shares. “The simulation sessions were very good. They helped us to understand KMC procedure, benefits of KMC, counselling to parents for KMC better so that we could provide quality care in real life.”
The effectiveness of that care is evident in the joy and relief of caregivers who pass through the KMC unit’s doors. Among them is Sima Devi Kusuwaha, a local of Parsa, who had brought in her newborn son to be treated in September 2020. Within five days of Sima and her husband starting to practice KMC, the baby’s weight was seeing a promising rise, and continued to increase following their discharge from the facility.
“It makes us happy to see the change,” Hema says.