Doctors and nurses shine in one of Rwanda’s newest neonatology wards

With new equipment and better training, these doctors are saving more lives and help mothers care for their new babies.

By Cyriaque Ngoboka and Veronica Houser
Mother in Rwandan hospital with newborn baby
UNICEF/UN0300549/Ngoboka

16 April 2019

NYANZA, Rwanda - Jeanne d’Arc Utetiwabo is a doctor of neonatology in Nyanza Hospital. It is crowded, often with too many patients and too few doctors. Too many times, she has seen risky pregnancies result in babies born too early. Her team acts quickly to save the lives of these mothers, but prematurely born children are still fighting to survive.

Doctors and nurses in Rwanda are not strangers to situations like these. Doctors and nurses often lack the training and equipment to identify problems, and to save the baby’s life if something goes wrong.

In Rwanda, over 40 per cent of children who do not survive until their fifth birthday are within their first month of life.

But in Nyanza Hospital’s bright new maternity ward, equipped with new essential medical equipment with support from UNICEF, there have been marked improvements in the number of mothers and children who survive premature deliveries.

“We used to have a very small space with questionable cleanliness,” says Jeanne d’Arc. “But now we have a lot of space and modern equipment, and well-trained nurses. These nurses are now able to shine in a crisis because they have the confidence and the proper equipment to save lives.”

Through UNICEF’s partnership with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Nyanza Hospital is working with mentors from the United Kingdom who are training nurses and doctors in Rwanda. These mentors have also helped Nyanza Hospital improve their administration processes, developing well-maintained patient records and checklists for better follow-up care with new mothers.

Young mother holds her premature baby twins in a hospital in Rwanda
UNICEF/UN0300550/Ngoboka
In Nyanza Hospital’s new maternity and neonatology wards, doctors and nurses have the equipment and training to save more lives and help mothers care for their prematurely born babies.

Esther Mukanyandwi lies in the maternity ward with her new baby, practicing Kangaroo Mother Care by keeping her baby wrapped closely to her body. “My child was born two months early and weighed only 1.3 kilogrammes,” she says. “I was sure she would die because there were many times when she stopped breathing, but the nurses were always able to resuscitate her."

"The doctors have been counselling me on how to breastfeed properly, and I am seeing my daughter gain weight and grow.”

Dr. Pascal Ngiruwonsanga, the Director General of the hospital, has seen neonatal services drastically improve over the last two years.

“We can offer better health services now, and we have been able to rehabilitate old facilities,” he said. “With the right medical equipment and competent staff, we can focus on resuscitation of newborns, infection prevention, and education for new parents.”

“We hope to see the number of child deaths reach zero in the few years ahead.”