Photo: @ckarema via Twitter
“Today as we mark World Prematurity Day, we officially open the International Kangaroo Mother Care Conference by reflecting on preterm babies everywhere and the care they deserve to receive.” – Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwanda Minister of Health
The Ministry of Health in Rwanda welcomed over 200 experts, researchers, policy makers and stakeholders to the 10th International Conference on Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). The 3-day conference, organized in collaboration with Rwanda Paediatric Association, seeks to encourage research and exchange experiences and knowledge among countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Delegates from the 28 countries represented at this meeting will have an opportunity to consult with colleagues from around the world on next steps that can be taken to accelerate the uptake of this life-saving intervention.
“India hosted the previous KMC conference in 2012, and we have come today to the ‘Land of One Thousand Hills’ from the land of one thousand challenges to say: Kangaroo Care saves lives, and the commitment evidenced by countries in this room is encouraging” commented Dr. Sashi Vani, Professor of Pediatrics and KMC champion from India.
As reported in recent estimates, for the first time in history complications of preterm birth outrank all other causes as the world’s number one killer of young children. Of the estimated 6.3 million deaths of children under the age of five in 2013 around the world, complications from preterm births accounted for nearly 1.1 million deaths.
KMC is not only a proven solution to save the lives of preterm babies by regulating temperature, preventing infections and promoting breastfeeding; it will improve the health and development of babies. Throughout the conference, researchers will present the latest evidence around the benefits of KMC that extend beyond survival, including improved breathing and brain activity. Participants will also discuss issues around implementing, planning and running a local KMC program, with experiences from Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malawi, and Zambia among others.
Photo: Laerdal Global Health
To kick off the meeting, a group of global health experts, KMC champions, practitioners and institutional donors came together to identify the catalytic strategies necessary to remove the barriers that have prevented the uptake of KMC, and chart a road map to accelerate its effective implementation. Known as the KMC Acceleration Partnership, this multi-partner stakeholder group was established in 2013 to address the barriers to effective implementation of KMC globally, and accelerate uptake of KMC as part of a package of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) services.
Dr. Binagwaho stressed, “Globally, we have a lot to do. We’ve come together to learn from each other and go faster. We cannot do it alone. And by coming together, we will also go farther.”
The partnership calls for increased and concentrated action at global and national levels to achieve a 50% increase in coverage of KMC by 2020 among stable preterm newborns or babies weighing less than 2,000 grams. These ambitious coverage targets set out in the global Every Newborn Action Plan position KMC as a key component of an integrated RMNCH package of care.