Keeping a Baby Close to Your Heart

Alicia Adler

Program Officer at Save the Children Malawi

January 9, 2016

Imagine spending at least 20 hours a day, 7 days a week with a baby strapped to your chest. Imagine you must eat, sleep, work and care for your other children along with a tiny baby who depends on your continuous skin-to-skin contact and exclusive breastfeeding for survival. This is the basis of kangaroo mother care (KMC), a costeffective intervention to help meet a premature or low-birthweight babys basic needs for warmth, nutrition, stimulation and protection from infection.blog2

For Malawi, with the highest preterm birth rate in the world (18 per 100 live births), KMC is a critical lifesaving intervention. But too few premature babies receive KMC due to lack of awareness, limited resources, and stigma against both KMC and premature/low-birthweight infants. It is not surprising, then, that direct complications of preterm birth are the second leading cause of child deaths after pneumonia, and result in more than 14 newborn deaths every day in Malawi. 

To commemorate World Prematurity Day 2016 on November 17th, Save the Children staff in Malawi accepted the KMC Challenge. Participants practiced KMC with a baby doll for 24 hours – holding the doll throughout work hours, around town and at home for the night. The challenge was accepted by other partners across the country and globe.

Jessie Lwanda, an IT coordinator said, “By doing this challenge, we are saying, ‘let’s give these babies a chance to survive by showing them love and carrying them close to our heart.’”

I have a passion for every child to survive, said Mavis Khondiwa, a Save the Children grants coordinator based in the United States. Through this challenge I could understand what kind of burden those mothers with premature babies face. I really feel for them.

blog1Over the course of the day, 20 men and women got a glimpse into the life of a mother with a premature baby and all the issues it presents. Through what I experienced as a man doing the challenge, I think women need more help, said Nyashadzashe Kaunda, an awards management officer. Men should also be taking care of the child and helping throughout the whole KMC process, he said

At the end of the 24 hours, colleagues returned the dolls and resumed their normal lives. For women around the country, it isnt so easy, though, as their childs life depends on their continued commitment to practice KMC until the baby reaches a healthy weight. In a country where neonatal mortality accounts for 40 percent of all death in children under age 5, it is everyones responsibility to champion KMC, and not just on World Prematurity Day, but every day. 

Save the Children is helping shift norms around the value of newborns in Malawi through the government’s social and behavior change communication (SBCC) campaign, Khanda ndi Mphatso (A Baby is a Gift: Give it a Chance), helping establish KMC sites of excellence in district hospitals, and collaborating with the Ministry of Health to develop a national routine reporting system for KMC services in health facilities.

To learn more about our work to improve newborn survival, click here.

Alicia Adler is a program officer and Global Health Corps fellow with Save the Children in Malawi.

A Teacher’s Process

Author Portrait_2_Mirvat Mahran, Early Childhood Care and Development Teacher
Mirvat Mahran

Early Childhood Care and Development Teacher

Save the Children Egypt

September 1, 2016

 

I’m Mirvat Mahran, a teacher at one the preschools supported by Sponsorship, in a village called Arab AlQadadeh in Egypt.

My preschool takes part in Sponsorship’s Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program, which targets children under the age of 6. This program focuses on the development of young children to ensure they enter primary school with the skills they need for school success. Through activities like interactive games, songs, storytelling, social interaction and outdoor play, we help make sure children grow and thrive. In remote areas, where this important stage of life is often neglected, the ECCD program helps get children excited about education and thus increases enrollments in primary school.

On a regular work day, I perform activities with children to help build their social skills and teach them the basics they need to be ready for school. We welcome everybody, and in particular give special care to children with disabilities.

One of the children who joined us a while ago is Rania, a 5-year-old and very sweet little girl. Her mother tells us that before enrolling in ECCD, Rania always refused to talk or express herself. She wasn’t able to count to ten, didn’t know names of familiar animals, wasn’t able to identify names of many common objects to her surroundings and wasn’t able to put sentences together correctly. Her mother came to realize that she was significantly behind in language development.

Rania and the other kids clap along to a group activity led by their teacher, Mirvat
Rania and the other kids clap along to a group activity led by their teacher, Mirvat.

As a mother, she was willing to do whatever it took to help her daughter. She thought that a preschool might be the answer, and so decided to enroll Rania in a Save the Children supported preschool. As Rania’s new teacher, she explained to me her child’s issues and that she believed Rania had lost her self-confidence due to the laughter and criticism she endured from her peers. My biggest challenge with Rania was that I needed to avoid the same thing happening twice, so I had to welcome her very carefully, building her capacity using ECCD’s multi-activities package which is designed to promote the cognitive, physical, language and psycho-social skills of children her age.

I talked to her about the activities that the children here do to figure out what she loves best. She asked to play in the art corner and after she’d finished her drawing I asked her to describe it. I encouraged her to talk by giving her the impression that I understood her comprehensively. Gradually, I started to correct her and teach her the proper pronunciation of letters. In this way, her language skills developed as did her comfort in the classroom.

She began participating in our classroom’s reading corner, where she enjoyed reading and acting stories out in front of the other children. With her self-confidence rebuilt, she started to take part in the collective games, like playing with, and sharing, blocks and preforming plays with the other children.

Rania presents in front of her classmates
Rania presents in front of her classmates.

Now, Rania is able to clearly communicate and understand the others. I feel so happy for having a positive impact on her life. I felt responsible for her since the moment her mother came to me asking for help. I doubted myself at times, but the trainings I had received with Save the Children built a solid foundation that I relied on, and continue to rely on. Many of the mothers in our village turn to me whenever they face problems with their children. Now, I’m proud to say that Rania is looking forward to moving onto primary school next year!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Bourama at work in the clinic

Bourama Rises to the Occasion

Bourama at work in the clinic
Bourama at work in the clinic

Located in north-western Africa, Mali is a land-locked country where families and their children often suffer in the face of inadequate social services. In particular, children often experience difficulty accessing basic healthcare and quality education. Sponsorship has been operating in Mali for almost three decades helping to lift children out of extreme poverty. Bourama was one such child, born in the Ivory Coast 22 years ago. In 2000, he and his family moved to Mali.

 

Living as a young boy in Mali, Bourama faced many of these same challenges before entering the Sponsorship program. Given his family’s limited resources, he had been unable to purchase school supplies which caused him to regularly miss class. “I wasn’t interested in education. But that changed thanks to Sponsorship,” he shared. Without Sponsorship, it’s unlikely that Bourama would be where he is today – providing life-changing medical care to his local community.

The picture of his sponsor, kept close all these years
The picture of his sponsor, kept close all these years

Bourama was sponsored through Save the Children from 2001 to 2008. He remembers his sponsor’s name, the correspondence they sent back and forth, and the good advice she gave him. He still has a picture of her which he proudly shows visitors.

Picture of Bourama in 2006
Picture of Bourama in 2006

During that time he also benefited from extensive sponsorship-funded activities, such as access to clean drinking water and essential deworming and vitamin A supplements. This crucial support enabled Bourama to stay in good health and to complete his education, which then opened the door to new and exciting possibilities.

22-year-old Bourama today

 

For the past three years, Bourama has worked as a nurse’s aide in a private health clinic where he manages the treatment room. He loves his job and says it allows him to stay in contact with people and help them to relieve their suffering. He also aims to pursue higher education in hopes of moving on to a more specialized role within the medical business.

 

 

Still, Bourama always looks back in appreciation of his Sponsorship experience. As Bourama revealed, “I am what and who I am today in large measure because of Sponsorship programs.”

 

Sometimes, support from a caring sponsor can make all the difference in the world – something to keep in mind in your next letter!

 

To sponsor a child like Bourama, please visit our child sponsorship site

“We vaccinated children in sandstorms”: How Our Emergency Team Saves Lives

by Dr Nicholas Alusa

Save the children car in Kenya.

Our Emergency Health Unit in Kenya, working on cholera prevention.

Measles is a highly contagious, horrific disease. If left untreated, in a worst case scenario, it can lead to death.

There’s no specific treatment for measles: all that medics can do is isolate the sufferer, give them vitamin A, and hope for the best.

In high-income countries most people infected with the disease recover in a couple of weeks, very few die. But in developing countries it kills up to one in five.

A safe and cost-effective vaccine does exist.  But families in remote areas, in countries with weak health systems, struggle to access it.

An emergency unfolds

Mayom County, in rural northern South Sudan, is one such place. A remote population in a country whose infrastructure has been crippled by civil war, no children have received routine vaccinations here for over two years. In January a few suspected cases of measles appeared, scattered around the main town. By the end of February, the county was in the grip of a fully-blown outbreak.

Nearly three quarters of the cases were children. If someone didn’t act fast, a tragedy of enormous scale was on the horizon: tens of thousands of children were at risk.

Previously in situations like this, we would have to spend time pulling together teams of specialists and supplies – a delay that costs lives. But last year we revolutionized the way we get medical care to children in emergencies, when we launched the Emergency Health Unit.

The unit is made up of fully-formed, world-class teams of medics on standby all over the world, ready to deploy within hours – complete with equipment, supplies, and logistics experts like me with the skills to get everything where it’s needed quickly.

When you have pre-positioned supplies you don’t have to spend time initiating the supply chain process, raising a procurement form, searching for funds, finding suppliers who can take months…while children in emergencies wait. That’s why these kits are so important.

Transforming emergency care

As soon as we heard about the measles outbreak in South Sudan, my team was mobilized. Within two weeks of the outbreak being announced, we were on the ground vaccinating children in 18 clinics and 24 mobile outreach centers.

Tracking the population in South Sudan is difficult, especially since the outbreak of conflict and the huge movement of people it has caused. A rough estimate told us we could expect to vaccinate around 26,000 children. Three weeks later, we had vaccinated 44,447.

We linked up with local staff and infrastructure and worked with the community to raise awareness on our behalf and tell people we were here. Word spread quickly, and after receiving 60 children on the first day, numbers rapidly swelled to up to 400 daily. Reaching out to the community in this way is so important to our work in emergencies – we would never have reached as many children as we did without their help.

South Sudan sandstorm

The Emergency Health Unit team continued to treat children through sandstorms.

A medal of honor

The infrastructure in Mayom is poor – it’s difficult to reach this part of South Sudan, and many NGOs are reluctant to attempt healthcare here. We relied on an array of transport, including motorbikes and canoes, to reach the most remote communities. We travelled across rough, rugged terrain and collapsed bridges, and vaccinated children in the middle of sandstorms.

We hurried, carrying life-saving vaccines that melted at three times the normal speed in Mayom’s 40-degree heat in precious cool-boxes . All while wearing what my colleague Nathalie calls the ‘Mayom suit’: head-to-toe dust.

In one rural cattle ranch our team leader, Koki, was heavily spat on by an elderly man on our arrival. “Hey, what’s this?” Koki said at the time, wiping the slimy liquid from his forehead. It turned out this was a sign of appreciation from the old man, who in his lifetime had never seen any NGO reach his remote community. ‘’Being spat on by an old man signifies immense blessings bestowed upon Save the Children!’’ a local health official told us.

And this salivary medal of honor feels truly earned. It was an incredible achievement: in this most inhospitable of environments, we did whatever it took to protect the vulnerable children in this isolated part of the world. Our new system works: in just three weeks, 44,447 children were permanently saved from a potentially deadly fate. A catastrophe was averted.

Now – what’s next?

 

Nicholas Alusa Dr Nicholas Alusa is an experienced pharmacist and medical logistics expert working as part of our new Emergency Health Unit, a major change in our work. The Unit consists of immediately deployable teams containing the ideal combination of medical and operational specialists, strategically positioned in emergency hotspots around the world and fully equipped with the best tools for the job. We can deploy these teams in a matter of hours, putting them at a child’s side, giving them the treatment they need in those critical early stages of an emergency.