UNICEF newborn kits providing warmth to newborn babies in Kaabong District

"The bag has a towel which I use to keep my baby warm.”

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye
maternal and newborn health
UNICEF Uganda/2019/Abdul

17 April 2019

Imagine arriving at the health facility to deliver a baby with nothing, but a piece of cloth also locally known as ‘Suuka’, which also doubles as a wrapper for the pregnant mother. This is a common scenario for many mothers in Kaabong District, Karamoja sub-region. It is also part of their culture, as pregnant women don’t prepare for deliveries, lest the unborn child dies.

Longom Esther, 21-year-old first time mother cuddles her beautiful 3-day old baby Vicky Etai in Kaabong Hospital. Beside her is a big blue bag which we later learn is known as a newborn kit. The newborn kits are given to all mothers who deliver from health facilities in the Karamoja sub-region, thanks to UNICEF with financial assistance from the Korea International Co-operation Agency (KOICA). The newborn kits contain a thick towel that health workers use as a receiving blanket to keep babies warm upon delivery, two plastic sheets – one used during delivery, a bar of soap used to promote good hygiene for the mother and baby as well as an immunization card.

Longom shares that when she arrived at the hospital, she too didn’t have anything with her, so the contents in the bag came in very handy during and after delivery.

“I was also happy to receive the bag because I didn’t have any bag to keep my baby’s clothes. Instead I was mixing her clothes with mine which the health workers said was not good,”

Longom says with a smile before thanking the UNICEF team for the support.

In another corner of the maternity ward is 21-year-old Nakoli Godwill with her five-day old baby boy, Lochodo. She also received a newborn kit after delivery. She knows exactly why she was given the bag.

“I was told to wash my clothes and those of the baby using the soap in the bag and keep them clean in the bag. Also, in there is the towel which I use to keep my baby warm.”

The hospital nursing officer, Sister. Akol Mary Immaculate, confirms the kits are very useful to the mothers.

“Many mothers show up at this hospital with nothing, many can’t even afford to buy a small piece of soap. Others show up with their dirty Suukas and they want us to wrap the newborn babies in there which we strongly discourage because the babies will get infections.” She stresses that the clean towel/blanket in the kit is therefore utilized to wrap the newborns upon delivery. The soap too is provided to promote hygiene among the mothers and babies subsequently controlling infections especially among the newborns like sepsis, which kills many.

Sister Akol recalls that before the newborn kits were provided, the health workers used to send mothers to the shops to buy soap after delivery, but many had no money. This compromised their hygiene and that of their babies. So, the soap provided in the kit has really improved the hygiene of these mothers and their babies.

“Mothers appear at the hospital for delivery with nothing and will only receive a few clothes from relatives, days after delivery. Therefore, the contents in the kits especially the warm towel is critical in the first few hours and days after delivery to keep the babies from the cold.”

The newborn kits are also utilised to sensitize mothers on what they need to prepare before delivery, how to promote hygiene and how to look after their newborn babies using the contents therein. “We stress to them that if we don’t have warm clothes to cover the child, they could die’” Akol says.

The maternity ward at Kaabong hospital registers an average of 90 deliveries a month and 8 deliveries in a day, so many mothers have and continue to benefit from the newborn kits. 

In addition, UNICEF has also constructed two latrine blocks for women and provided handwashing facilities to promote hygiene among the patients and staff as well as an incinerator to support proper disposal of hospital waste disposal, thanks to KOICA funding.