240,000 Premature Nigerian children Died Last Year

• Kangaroo Mother Care Can Avert Such Loss – Experts

By  Chioma Umeha
Before the curtain of last year closed, about 240,000 premature Nigerian children died from complications, according to Mamaye 2016 factsheet on Nigeria preterm babies, mainly due to lack of incubators and other specialized devices to care for them in the country’s health facilities.
Yet, only few parents are aware that a skin-to-skin form of care between a mother and her baby, known as kangaroo mother care (KMC), is an effective alternative to an incubator. Experts said, the KMC, if initiated immediately and continuously after birth, will save premature babies from death or complications.
Rebecca Akinwale, middle aged mother is one of the few examples of the success stories of Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). She gave birth to a preterm – baby David who was at birth 1.2kg, but now is 1.99kg through the aid of Kangaroo Mother Care method.
She told Independent: “When I gave birth to David, I was at loss on what to do because he was underweight. He was born on October 12, 2016. In fact I was confused on what to do to help my baby. So, I started practising the Kangaroo Mother Care(KMC) method. Kangaroo Mother Care is about keeping the baby warm. I do that for two hours daily. After a couple of days, I noticed that my baby has increased in weight.
Rebecca added: “Once I put him on my chest and tie the wrapper, he feels very okay and comfortable. The weight of David at birth was 1.2kg. Today, he is 1.99kg. All one needs is thick wrapper. In the room where you will stay with the baby, there will be no air condition and fan. But it must be well ventilated.
“So other parents, who have such issues, can embrace the technique, it is good, natural and cost effective,” she added.
Speaking during a Mamaye Media Roundtable on Prematurity in Nigeria, a Professor of Pediatrics at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital and President of Nigeria Society of Neonatal Medicine, Prof. Chinyere Ezeaka, explained that KMC is an effective alternative to an incubator.
According to Prof. Ezeaka, 980,000 preterm and low birth weight babies are born each year in Nigeria, yet most health facilities cannot care for them. The President of Nigeria Society of Neonatal Medicine said the solution is KMC. According to her, Kangaroo Mother Care is a method of care practiced on babies, newborn, usually preterm, and infants in which the infant is held skin-to-skin with an adult. The adult could be the mother, father, substitute caregiver or a relation who holds or ties the baby skin-to-skin with a thick cloth. So instead of parents running about looking for incubators which is expensive and not so available, they should practice the KMC on their babies.
It is evidence-based and an affordable alternative to incubator care. Presently in Nigeria, there are not enough incubators at the health facilities. We also have issue of manpower, power supply, and general maintenance.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Lancet Neonatal Survival series, 2005 have recommended KMC as a standard of care for preterm babies especially in low income countries.”
The Professor of Pediatrics also said that Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) will help stabilize the baby’s heart rate, improve his breathing pattern, improve oxygen saturation in the baby and helps him to gain weights among others.
According to the don, newborn mortality remains one of the challenges confronting Nigeria and other less developed countries.
Ezeaka noted: “Each year, an estimated 240,000 newborn babies die in their first month of life out of approximately seven million annual deliveries. Nigeria ranks the highest in Africa in terms of the number of neonatal deaths and second globally. That is about 650 deaths per day.
Ezeaka said that newborn mortality has to do with deaths within 28 days of birth, saying in Nigeria the incidence is high with 240,000 newborn deaths occurring before the 28 days.
“Newborn mortality remains a huge challenge in Nigeria and other countries that are still medically developing. By newborn mortality, I mean deaths in children within 28 days of birth.
“Premature birth complication is the direct cause of 31 per cent of newborn deaths in Nigeria and 80 per cent indirect cause. Globally, the country ranks third among countries with the highest number of preterm births with an annual preterm birth rate of about 773,600,” she added.
Few mothers like Rebecca could count themselves to be lucky, but, Habiba Abubakar cannot. Aged 29, Habiba lives at in Morenike Street, Ayobo, Lagos. Habiba is among many mothers whose babies have died premature, while searching for an incubator, without any knowledge about KMC method. At 28 weeks’ pregnancy, Habiba started feeling severe abdominal cramps late one Sunday night.
Her words: “Then, very early one Monday morning, I got up and found myself bleeding. It was 5.30am on a Monday. My husband rushed me to a nearby private hospital. At the hospital, the doctor asked: Are you feeling any pain? And I said: Yes. I was shocked when the doctor informed me that the pain was contraction. I knew that at 28 weeks, it was too early for me to deliver. Within a short period, our baby boy- Sulaimon was out, very tiny and frail, weighing 1.2kg,” Habiba told Independent.
She said: “I did not need any prophet to tell me that I was in trouble as the hospital did not have any incubator to support my baby.
So they were quickly referred to Alimosho General Hospital, as the baby must be supported in an incubator and placed on other specialized care.
She further said: “At the General Hospital, we were told that there was no free incubator. We were again referred to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). At LASUTH, we were again turn down because the incubators were all occupied. We were further referred to Lagos University Teaching Hospital(LUTH), Idiaraba.
The journey from one hospital to another started taking its toll on the baby – both the traffic and smoke on the road did not help matters. He died before we arrived LUTH,” she said.
Baby Sulaimon is simply one out of thousands of Nigerian children who die yearly, due to premature birth complication, according to Mamaye 2016 factsheet on preterm births. Regrettably, many of these deaths could have been prevented if proper and specialized care had been available and accessible immediately after birth.
She said: “Emphasis should be on prevention of premature birth. There must be early antenatal care to identify and manage high risk pregnancies. Problems related to teenage pregnancies, malnutrition and multiple births can increase the chances of preterm births. Other causes include:   kidney diseases, hypertension, stress, urinary tract infections and diabetes.”
Similarly, Mrs. Ojulari Ope, matron at LUTH, urged parents with preterm babies to embrace Kangaroo Mother Care as the only alternative to incubator.
“This is what has been embraced worldwide and it has saved millions of children who were born preterm from dying due to the cost of incubator. We have handled cases at LUTH and I can tell you that Kangaroo Mother Care is the solution to such issues,” she said.


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