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Neonatal Nursing in Ghana: International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Award
The first International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Award recognizes the commitment of nurses working on the frontlines of newborn care in resource-challenged countries, where the majority of newborn deaths occur. Regina Obeng from Kumasi in Ghana and Rekha Kashinath Samant from Mumbai, India, were selected from nominations sent from all over the world. They received their awards during the opening ceremony of 7th International Conference of the Neonatal Nurses at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa. The award is organized by the International Conference of Neonatal Nurses (ICNN) in conjunction with Save the Children, the Council of Neonatal Nurses (COINN) and the Neonatal Nurses Association of Southern Africa (NNASA).
In Ghana, 30 out of every 1000 newborns won’t live past their first month of life. Regina Obeng is the principal nursing officer and manager of the Neonatal Unit at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Ghana’s second biggest city, Kumasi. With 22 years experience in the field, she is a neonatal nursing expert and has been the driving force behind her hospital’s introduction of Kangaroo Mother Care, promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and increased infection control. She has never had the opportunity to have an official neonatal nurse qualification and yet has chosen to dedicate her life to Ghana’s newborns.
Regina Obeng had several nominations for the award. One nomination said, “She is not at all afraid of confronting doctors on the ward who she feels are cutting corners in the care of a sick newborn. She cries when a preventable death occurs in our neonatal unit due to a mother lack of knowledge or lack of expertise in our part of the world.”
Despite the fact that nurses provide the majority of care to sick newborns in health facilities, there are very few nurses like Regina Obeng who dedicate themselves to newborn care, which is a major chalenge for neonatal units worldwide. There is an acute shortage of neonatal nurses internationally and particular in resource-limited countries where there is a desperate need for accredited training in advanced neonatal nursing practice.
This award was also created to highlight the fact that skilled nursing care is critical to the reduction of the global neonatal death toll of 3.6 million newborns a year. Meeting the global Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 for child survival will be increasingly determined by how well countries can reduce newborn deaths, as now more than 40 percent of under-five deaths globally occur in the first month of life.