UNICEF's Oxygen Concentrators: Saving the Lives of Newborns in Northern Nigeria
In Kaduna, northern Nigeria, oxygen concentrators give newborns a second chance at life.
It's an indescribable feeling for a mother to hold her newborn child in her arms for the first time. However, for Jessy Job, 27, this experience was coupled with a sense of relief and gratitude as her premature baby was kept alive by an oxygen concentrator at Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital in Kaduna.
"I would have lost my baby if there was no oxygen. Without oxygen, my baby would not have been alive," she remarked repeatedly, her voice quivering with emotion.
Jessy's story is not unique. Every year, between 1,000 and 1,500 newborns are admitted to the hospital in Kaduna, a populous state in Northern Nigeria, with more than 70% of them requiring oxygen at some point during their stay. Lack of oxygen can cause irreparable damage to a baby's brain cells, leading to lifelong developmental delays and disabilities. However, thanks to the efforts of dedicated healthcare workers at the hospital, these babies have a chance at life.
Hauwa Lawal, the chief nursing officer in charge of the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU), describes oxygen as a "life saver." The SCBU can have up to 14 infants in need of oxygen at any given time, and the capacity-building training provided by UNICEF has improved the team's ability to manage sick children and administer oxygen effectively using oxygen concentrators.
"People say that water sustains life, but we in the health sector say oxygen sustains life," Hauwa explains. "For babies delivered through a cesarean session, we usually keep cylinders or concentrators on standby because anything can happen. Lack of oxygen also affects the brain cells, and that baby can turn out to be something else."
Dr. Audu Lamidi, chief of the pediatric department, emphasizes the importance of having oxygen readily available in the unit that takes care of newborns. "It is extremely important that oxygen is available because there are so many conditions," he says. "Let's start with the premature babies, most of them would have respiratory problems that would require the use of oxygen. There is also distress syndrome which is very common in premature babies. Babies that have infections like pneumonia need oxygen and other problems usually associated at birth."
The survival rate of newborns at the hospital is over 80%, thanks in large part to the use of oxygen concentrators. With generous support from the Canadian government and the U.S. government through the UNICEF Supply Service Fund, UNICEF assisted in developing human resources and expertise necessary to look after babies has been invaluable since the unit's inception in 2015.
Now fully trained, health workers at the hospital are saving the lives of newborns and giving them a chance at a healthy future. For mothers like Jessy, the sight of her baby breathing with the help of an oxygen concentrator is a reminder of the incredible impact a timely intervention can have on families and communities.
In a world where every child deserves a chance to live and thrive, the story of Jessy and her baby is just one example of the countless lives that have been changed for the better thanks to the tireless work of the healthcare workers like Hauwa Lawal and Dr. Audu Lamidi at Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital.