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Pediatricians Push for Reduced Child Deaths

by Daniel Sabiiti
7:23 pm

Participants at the Newborn Health Symposium – Kigali March 29,2019

In 2017, Dr. Kunda Mutesu Kapembwa, senior pediatrician from Zambia was given responsibility to treat a prematurely born baby under neonatal care unit at Livingstone Central Hospital.

She did her job keeping the child alive and during the treatment she saw signs of the baby improving.

In a hospital which has only one pediatrician she assigned one of the three nurses to monitor and feed milk to the child in the process of treatment.

One of the nurses conducted the feeding without checking position of the milk tube and thus fed the milk in the chest of the baby resulting to its death.

“She didn’t both check the tube and was not aware of it. When the mother came in, she asked why the baby didn’t kick yet it had been doing so few moments ago. That’s when I tried to do what I can but the child didn’t survive. In a nutshell this accident was about lack of skills,” Dr. Kapembwa narrated.

The medic was sharing his story in Kigali this Friday March 29, 2019 during a one-day ‘Newborn Health Symposium’ sponsored by D-Rev (medical tech-provider) and Rwanda Health Ministry.

The symposium showcased a new machine technology developed in USA and tested in Rwanda recently that can be used to save newborns from succumbing to jaundice effects (yellow skin, eye defects) at birth.

The new machine (phototherapy) emits a blue light with ability to treat jaundice disease, which is caused by a high buildup of  bilirubin- a toxic substance from decomposed blood which at high level would damage the child’s brain.

Research released today showed that babies who would have been placed in the sun to treat jaundice, or forced to share expensive equipment, received markedly higher quality care at Rwandan hospitals using world-class phototherapy devices designed for low-income regions.

This add to existing technics like the Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) where a mother caries the child in the chest giving it warmth and incubators which are machines that keep the baby warm under regulated temperature.

In Africa, at least 3 million newborns who die each year globally, 2.6 million of them are stillborn.

Despite existing technology, experts said lack of skills has created unprecedented deaths cases during efforts to keep newborn alive.

Dr. Faustine Agaba of  Rwanda said that statistics show reasons why children are dying in district hospitals because of lack of training and professional skills among medical assistants.

“The Ministry should tell hospital directors not to rotate the nurses who are experienced in neonatology to other units and bringing in others who are not experienced, ending up causing more problems that results to child deaths,” Dr. Agaba said.

Infant Warming Mat Made in Rwanda

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the first 28 days of life (neonatal period) represent the most vulnerable time for a child’s survival.

“Quality of education is suffering and it was published in the human index of World Bank. We need simulation centers and training centers adding to those existing at training hospitals,” Minister of Health Dr. Diane Gashumba said.

As countries decide on how to improve training of neonatal medical nurses, Dr. Evrard Nahimana  has developed low cost baby warmers (Infant Warming Mat) to address cost of maintenance and electricity in child care.

“We think of easy solution using accessible materials- wax and some mattress cushions found locally, but which is made with face change material. We designed this to complement Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC not to challenge it,” said Nahimana.

Pilot study results show the mat corrects hypothermia up to 80% of the 100babies using the warmer had no side effects like allergies.