Kangaroo Mother Care
Kangaroo Mother Care promotes premature newborn care, survival and growth in Katete, Eastern Province, Zambia
Welcoming a newborn baby is an exciting moment, but the joy of receiving a new family member always comes with some anxiety and questions about the health of the baby, the mom, the uncertainty of the first days together, and the bonding, just to name a few – would I be able to play with my baby and mimic their giggles? What if the baby is born prematurely? Would this still be possible?
Preterm Birth affects families in every country. While more than 80 per cent of preterm births occur in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the problem is universal. 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely, that is about 1 in 10. In Zambia, every year, we lose an estimated 36,000 babies before they reach their 5th birthday. And it is heart-breaking that over 40 per cent of them, about 16,000 babies, die in the first 28 days of their life. Preterm is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. Premature newborn care is very critical as the babies are not fully prepared to deal with life in our world. Their little bodies still have underdeveloped parts that include the lungs, digestive system, immune system, and skin.
“When I delivered my baby, I was worried and not so sure about the outcome. My baby was born with a body weight of less than 1.5 kilograms,” said 28-year-old Mary Zulu – showing her concern.
Mary Zulu is one of the newly moms who delivered her baby at St Francis Central Hospital, in Katete District, Eastern Province at the Kangaroo Mother Care Unit where she and her baby are being monitored.
“I was brought in the ward a few days ago. Since my baby is premature and still below 1.5kgs, I was told I have to remain in hospital a few more days so that the health personnel can monitor me and my baby,” Mary explained with a warm smile.
Kangaroo More Care (KMC) is a powerful therapy enabling skin-to-skin contact between the baby and parents or caregivers from the moment of birth. It has valuable benefits and can reduce neonatal mortality by 40 per cent, improve bonding with the baby, increase breast milk supply and increase confidence in the ability to care for the new baby. Kangaroo Mother Care is designed to be adapted to local conditions, it provides guidance on how to organize services at the referral level and on what is needed to provide effective kangaroo mother care.
“Through the KMC, I am able to monitor my baby more to see what is needed and check the body temperature as the baby is on my chest,” stated Mary Zulu.
The KMC ward started functioning in St Francis hospital in July 2022, and thanks to the support of UNICEF through the Ministry of Health and the generous funding from Sida, ten staff involved in newborn care in this hospital have been trained. Overall, thanks to this intervention, 60 nurses and doctors from provincial and district hospitals in four provinces have been trained across the country.
“Since the exchange training in Lusaka, I was able to share the knowledge with three other nurses in the ward. I am glad to have participated in the training and mentorship program at University Teaching Hospital (UTH) Women and Newborn Unit (WNH), Lusaka, as it has helped improve newborn care and management not only at our hospital facility but, in the many districts that come to seek medical attention here,” said Faides Zulu – Registered Nurse at St Francis Hospital Katete.
The creation of the KMC ward at St Francis Hospital has led to a decline in newborn mortality from 22.1 to 11.7 per cent in the third and fourth quarter of 2022 after the exchange training programme. 80 additional newborn lives were saved over the last 6 months because of staff skills training and improved care particularly through the Kangaroo Mother Care support.