International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Award 2016 – Adeyemo Abass Kola

Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of newborn and maternal deaths globally. Every day, over 1,500 babies (newborns or stillbirths) die and nearly 160 women die from complications in pregnancy or childbirth. Most of these deaths are from preventable conditions notably preterm birth complications, intrapartum related events, and infection.1 An acute shortage of health workers skilled in maternal and newborn health impede progress, especially in the Northern and more rural parts of Nigeria.

In the Zamfara State of Northern Nigeria, one neonatal nurse is working against the odds to save newborn lives, where children face an even higher risk of death due to lead poisoning as a result of unsafe mining and ore processing practices.

Adeyemo Abass Kola leads the local response to lead poisoning crisis treating affected children with Médecins Sans Frontières.2 He works rotating shifts during the day, and sometimes through the night, caring for newborns with lead poisoning or complications such as asphyxia. Sick newborns are also brought into the hospital by mothers without resources to care for or even clothe their babies. “What really makes me want to do my work more is the innocence of the babies…. You see them and you just have to help.”

Mr. Kola and his colleagues are providing chelation therapy to counteract the lead poisoning, and treating other illnesses such as hypothermia, malnutrition, and malaria.

Given the limited resources for neonatal care within the hospital, Mr. Kola has learned to improvise, finding new ways to provide the best care possible for newborns and their mothers. He hopes to become a specialized neonatal intensive care nurse so he can continue improving the quality of care in Zamfara and support communities to save more newborns and their mothers.

Adeyemo Abass Kola is a winner of the International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Award 2016.

  1. “Countdown to 2015: The 2015 Report, Nigeria.”

  2. “Lead Poisoning Crisis in Zamfara State Northern Nigeria: MSF Briefing Paper.” May 2012.

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