Saving Mothers and Newborns From Ebola in Guinea

Guinea’s Donka National Hospital in the capital of Conakry. Photo: AMCGuinea 

The idea of founding a non-profit organization was to help reduce newborn, infant and maternal mortality rates with a focus on premature babies. In Guinea 80% of premature babies die within days after birth. Sometimes 3 to 5 premature babies are kept in 1 incubator and in case of an infection or disease such as Ebola, all the babies could then be affected.

I was born as a preemie, weighing only 2 lbs, and I barely survived my first few weeks of life in the country’s only neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) located in Donka Hospital, in the capital Conakry.

In 2010, I became the mother of a premature baby who was born at 29 weeks and weighed a mere 2 lbs 4oz. Unlike myself, my daughter received top notch care of Maryland’s Holy Cross Hospital in the United States.

After my daughter’s release from the hospital, I decided to create an organization to help improve healthy newborn survival rates in Guinea. Since 2010 AMCGUINEA (Assistance to Maternity Centers of Guinea) has been speaking out and raising awareness of preterm birth in Guinea and the national government is now more involved in the care of newborns than ever before.

Preterm babies at the NICU at Donka National Hospital in Conakry, Guinea. This is the only NICU in all of Guinea. Photo: AMCGuinea

AMCGUINEA, in partnership with LittleBigSouls International Charity and in collaboration with Guinean Ministry of Health, celebrated World Prematurity Day for the first time on November 17th 2013 in Guinea. This was an important milestone in Guinea’s efforts to focus more attention on improving maternal and newborn survival.

Marking World Prematurity Day on November 17, 2013 in Guinea. Photo: AMCGuinea

Recently, however, the Ebola health crisis in Guinea has threatened to undermine these efforts. Pregnant women have been deeply affected by the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus. Even before Ebola, pregnant women were afraid to go in healthcare facilities where the management of complications surrounding childbirth is not always adequate. Now Ebola is deepening their fears, and not without reason.

Hundreds of health care workers in West Africa have also been impacted with Ebola recently, and many have been infected by the patients they treat. Rick Sacra, one of the American doctors who contracted Ebola and later made a full recovery, was treating pregnant women in Liberia when he became infected. In Guinea, it has been reported that Dr. Youssaouf Diallo Nabanio, a neonatologist who worked at the country’s only neonatal intensive care unit, contracted Ebola and died several days later.

Health workers and civilians should all be involved in preventing the spreading of the Ebola virus in West Africa for a healthier population globally.

AMCGUINEA is dedicated to its mission to save preterm babies in Guinea and is seeking more assistance, not only to save them but also to prevent the infection of Ebola in the neonatal departments. Newborns are more vulnerable to any disease, especially when they are very viral such as Ebola.

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