She was the proverbial palmtop baby. At 700 gm, Baby Anna (name changed) kept everybody guessing right from her birth. A newborn is considered “low birth weight” if weighing less than 2,500 grams at birth and globally prematurity is the leading cause of death among children under 5 years.
Baby Anna’s mother used to hold the newborn in her palm, thinking she was too small to survive. “Imagine. The baby was so tiny. The mother used to hold the baby in her palm. Even the mother could not believe it!” says Dr Magdalene Kuria extending her palm to explain her point.
Doctors and nurses at Kisumu County Hospital in western Kenya had just one option. A few months earlier, the hospital received CPAP devices for their neonatal unit and a core team also received training from a team of experts from Columbia University and Center for Public Health and Development (CPHD).
Dr Kuria has been spearheading the CPAP team at the hospital. “We put her on CPAP. The baby left the nursery when she was 3 months old. She was 2 kg!” You can sense her excitement and pride at helping the baby survive strong and healthy from the premature struggle with life.
Doctors at the Kisumu County Hospital have been using CPAP for the last 2 years and have had wonderful results. The hospital is just one of the 13 health facilities to have benefitted from the CPAP intervention that GE Foundation took up in partnership with Columbia University and CPHD. Assist International facilitated the program and also ensured the low-technology devices reached the hospitals along with the accessories.
Studies show that moderately preterm babies who are also small for gestational age experience a considerably increased likelihood of neonatal death in East Africa. Doctors at Kisumu County Hospital have shown that with simple interventions such as CPAP, such outcomes can be reversed.
Imagine. The baby was so tiny. The mother used to hold the baby in her palm.
Even the mother could not believe it!
Sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia are the most vulnerable regions and over 60 percent of the 15 million babies born too early each year. Sadly, more than 1 million of premature babies die due to complications related to their preterm birth. Studies show that essential newborn care as well as basic care for feeding support, infections and breathing difficulties can mean the difference between life and death for small babies.1
“This baby, she had very good neck control, good milestones, and looks so pretty now. I love this child, I feel like she’s mine. Because of this child, two of my interns have chosen pediatrics,” recalled Dr Magdalene Kuria. “We’ve had twins on CPAP in the incubator at the same time. I wish we had more CPAP machines.”
As part of the program, more than 1,100 babies have already been impacted positively. In fact, more than 70% of the times, babies less than a month have been put on CPAP. Given the high mortality rate due to respiratory causes, CPAP is a life-saving device in resource-poor settings where babies often die while waiting for advanced care. All that a health facility needs is the CPAP device and health workers trained in its use and application.
Though CPAP has been in use in high-income countries for decades,
its use in public facilities in East Africa is almost non-existent.
Though CPAP has been in use in high-income countries for decades, its use in public facilities in East Africa is almost non-existent. The CPHD had launched the CPAP program 3 years ago in 10 facilities in 9 counties. Given the success, the program was extended to 3 more hospitals. Kenya today also has 79 champion CPAP trainers to ensure more and more babies are benefitted. Not only that, the Kenya government has been catalyzed into drafting and instituting a national guideline on CPAP usage for neonates.
MediQuip Global, which helps facilities source the devices and accessories and also provides the required training, says that it has been flooded with enquiries on CPAP.
There are 193,000 Baby Annas being born in Kenya alone every year and 13,000 of them die due to preterm complications. It’s time to make sure even if they are born too soon, they are not born too late.