How UNICEF Outreach Programme rescues preterm baby in Kebbi

Eighteen-year-old Masauda Abdullahi recently made history, when despite all odds; she was assisted to save her premature baby from dying. She neither went to a hospital nor had access to medical equipment in performing the ‘feat.’

This was the first time residents of Unguwan Amada, a rural community in Kebbi State, from where Masauda hails, would witness such a ‘miracle.’

Masauda is one of the beneficiaries of an outreach programme being undertaken by the European Union (EU) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), aimed at supporting and improving Kebbi State’s health sector.

And the scheme is yielding results, especially in the lives of pregnant women and children, whose lives are being positively impacted.

Masauda, who got married when she was 15, prematurely gave birth to a baby girl at seven months. Her case was particularly interesting, as she didn’t go for antenatal care all through her pregnancy, and so, she couldn’t give birth at a hospital.

She was, however, assisted to carry out the Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) method, which enabled the baby to survive.

KMC is a process used particularly for preterm babies to enable them to access necessary warmth and care, just like in the incubator, which enables them to survive. The method involves the mother constantly covering the infant on her stomach, thereby ensuring skin-to-skin contact.

This procedure provides protection from infection, regulates temperature, breathing and brain activity, as well as encourages mother-baby bonding.

So, with this innovative method, the baby girl, named Rahama, was born five months ago at Unguwan Amada, a rural community in Argungu Local Government Area.

Narrating how it all happened, last week, Masauda said: “I delivered my baby at home and never went for antenatal care, as there was no health facility in the community. She is my first child and was in the seventh month of the pregnancy when I delivered her. And knowing that the birth was too early, I was terrified that I would certainly lose the baby.

“I had given up because I learned that such babies hardly survive, and was just waiting to see what would happen when a health official came to our community and gave us hope.

“She guided me on how to cover the baby on my stomach at all times and told me not to bathe, but only clean her with soft fabrics soaked in warm water.”

The official also told her to stop giving the baby water and taught her how to extract breast milk and feed the baby at regular intervals, because she was too frail to suck the breast on her own.

“I followed every instruction religiously and miraculously, my baby is now six months, healthy and surviving against all odds,” she said, thanking the EU and UNICEF for organising the outreach programme to provide healthcare services for people in hard-to-reach areas.

The health official, Mrs. Afiniki Musa, Lead, Argungu HTR Outreach Team of UNICEF and EU supporting maternal, newborn, child health and nutrition in the state, said: “We came for the outreach programme to provide antenatal care, immunisation, nutrition, and other health services to pregnant mothers and the community, when we heard that there was a woman who had a preterm birth.

“We asked to see the woman and the baby, and we found that the baby was too frail, could not open her eyes and could not suck breast. The fragile infant was also being fed with water and herb solution made from Neem tree.”

Musa, a midwife, narrated that after taking the baby to the nearest health facility, the infant weighed just 1.5 kilogram instead of between 2.6kg and 4kg for normal babies.

“After returning from the hospital, I taught the mother and the child’s grandmother the KMC method and how to feed the baby with extracted breast milk and mandated them to go for postnatal care.

“They followed all the instructions and after two weeks, the baby’s weight improved and increased to 1.7kg. At four weeks, she was weighing 2kg and now at five months she weights 4kg,” she added.

The official explained that the preterm birth could have been avoided, if the mother, who had untreated malaria during pregnancy, went for antenatal.

She explained that some of the common causes of preterm birth include infections and such chronic conditions as diabetes and high blood pressure, including genetic influence.

She said: “Complications associated with a premature birth include immature lungs, difficulty regulating body temperature, poor feeding, and slow weight gain.

“Premature babies may need longer or more intense nursery care, medication, and sometimes surgery. Preventing deaths and complications from preterm birth starts with accessing antenatal care.

“This will guarantee access to quality care that will ensure quality, healthy pregnancy and delivery.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said an estimated 15 million babies are born too early every year, and that one million children die yearly, due to complications of preterm birth.

The EU/UNICEF communication specialist in the state, Mallam Rabiu Musa expressed satisfaction at the development, explaining that theprogramme was designed to reduce child mortality and ensure that manylives were saved.

“We are in Kebbi to ascertain the level of their commitment and purpose of the intervention. We equally appreciate Kebbi State Government for the commitment and support toward the success recorded in the intervention,” he said.

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