Spotlight on Newborn Health: Meet Salma

|   Case Studies

For the first month of the new year, we'll focus on newborn health. How does CCBRT save babies' lives in Dar es Salaam?

In a corner of the neonatal ward at Mwananyamala Hospital, Salma lays down on her bed, holding her two little boys close. Like any parent, Salma was not prepared for her twins to be born seven weeks early. It came as a great shock: “After birth, the nurses took them straight away. I only had a quick look before they took them to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). They were so, so tiny”, Salma remembered.

The World Health Organisation defines preterm as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy. In Tanzania, preterm birth contributes to an estimated 27% of neonatal deaths. Babies who are preterm and exhibit growth restriction have an even higher risk of death. Preterm birth and low birth weight are also associated with a large burden of disability.

Essential care to mothers and babies in Tanzania could save up to two-thirds of newborn lives lost. CCBRT works with 23 public health facilities to improve maternal and newborn health, and has prioritised investments in newborn care at four big hospitals in Dar es Salaam. A recent data review shows a significant improvement in the quality of Maternal, Newborn and Child Healthcare services at Mwananyamala Hospital, from 5% in 2010 to 85% in 2016.

Though she was worried in the beginning, Salma became more optimistic as the weeks passed. “I was scared, as I had never experienced having premature babies. But doctors and nurses advised on taking care of them. And I am grateful for their help because, without it, I would have lost my babies,” she said.

Dr Isabella Shija, a trained preceptor in CCBRT’s Maternal and Newborn Healthcare Capacity Building Programme, was one of the health workers who followed up with Salma’s babies. “Low birth weight babies are particularly susceptible and need extra care to ensure they are kept warm and dry. We admit premature newborns with very low birth weight to the NICU to ensure they receive appropriate care,” she explained. “We have respiratory equipment for babies with breathing difficulties, phototherapy lights for jaundiced babies, and baby warmers, all supported by CCBRT,” Dr Isabella added. “An alternative method involves provision of warmth through skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby’s bodies, known as Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). KMC is safe, affordable and effective. We advise mothers like Salma on KMC and feeding, to increase chances of survival,” she concluded.

 

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