Judith Gwiliza is mother a who recently gave birth to Jenney, her newborn baby. She had spent several days at the neonatal ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Malawi. She was being taught the KMC (Kangaroo Mother Care) method to use on her baby.

Kangaroo Mother Care Capacity Building Workshop for Sub-Saharan Africa

Figure 2 Practical lesson on KMC positioning

African continent has made the highest progress during MDG era on reducing under five child deaths. However, there are more than a million newborn babies dying every year . The largest numbers of these preventable deaths are due to prematurity related complications which can be managed effectively by Kangaroo Mother Care and provision of sick newborn care. UNICEF’s East and Southern (ESAR) and West and Central African (WCAR) regions joined hands to organize two capacity building workshops of Francophone and Anglophone countries in June 2018 with the generous support of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Twenty-six health workers from five countries including Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Niger and Togo in June 2018 attended a KMC workshop at Kalafong Regional Training Center, Pretoria. The participants rated this training “an eye opener “on the many benefits of kangaroo mother care on newborn health outcomes. One of the participants remarked “This is the first time that I realized KMC to be a holistic model with so many sub-components. We thought we are doing KMC in our unit but compared to this, our work lacks the standard care. We want to become professional KMC practitioners and not KMC quacks.”

Figure 1 Participants of the training practicing KMC positioning

The returning Kenyan team sensitized the all Pumwani hospital staff in Nairobi, conducted training of trainers on the new learnings from Kalafong for 10 potential trainers, conducted KMC progress assessment, and increased the bed capacity of KMC from eight to twenty. The hospital has received financial and technical support of USAID and UNICEF for developing it into a regional training centre. The hospital has also previously benefitted from KMC strengthening support by Save the Children and UNICEF.

As the capacity at Pumwani hospital was built, a second batch of Anglophone African countries were trained in Nairobi. Participants included 31 neonatologists, paediatricians, midwives, nurses and ministry of health program managers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. While most participants were from public hospitals, there were a few from private hospitals and universities. Progress with KMC implementation varied between countries, with some countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone in the nascent stages and others like Ethiopia and Uganda already focusing on national or subnational scale.

This was the first training conducted in the newly established training centre. Facilitators were service providers working in Nairobi hospitals supported by UNICEF head quarter and the regional office. The training was concluded with action plans to initiate or scale up KMC and to improve quality of care and the collection and use of data in KMC. Follow-up action plans both at health facility and national level were developed. Kenyan team with support from UNICEF ESAR has already initiated measure to improve quality of KMC in Nairobi County and organized a follow-up workshop to build local training and mentoring capacity. This is indeed beginning of a new journey for creating professional excellence on management of babies born too small and saving their precious lives with evidence based practice of Kangaroo Mother Care.

1 UN Interagency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME) in 2016 http://www.childmortality.org

“KMC provides benefits to preterm and low birthweight infants in high, middle, and low income settings.” Lilongwe statement of Professional Health Associations

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