Kangaroo’s Huge Challenges, Despite Strides

The project has succeeded in curbing preterm and low birth weight deaths in the East Region by about 50 per cent in two years, but insufficient equipment is hampering further success.

Evaluation of the project, “Improving access and quality of new-born care in 5 health districts of the East Region from 2018-2020is still underway. Funded by the Korea National UNICEF Committee and implemented by the East Regional Delegation of Public Health and the Cameroon Kangaroo Foundation, the project also received technical and financial assistance from UNICEF Cameroon.

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The Kangaroo Mother Care, KMC project covered about 5,000 children in Abong-Mbang, Doume, Bertoua, Batouri and Garoua Boulai Health Districts. It involved Abong-Mbang, Doume, Bertoua, Batouri and Garoua Boulai District Hospitals; Catholic Integrated Health Centre, Nkolbikon, Bertoua, Bertoua Regional Hospital and the Protestant Hospital, Garoua Boulai

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Though evaluation is still going on to determine the full impact of the project, Ottop Francisca Manyi epouse Anchie, Focal Point for Newborn Care, East Regional Delegation of Public Health, says much has been achieved.If preterm and low birth weight children before the project were dying at the rate of say, 80 per cent or 90 per cent, today, it is as low as 40 per cent. This is because a great majority of parents continue to follow KMC instructions after leaving hospital,” Ottop explains. In some of the 7 health facilities involved in the project, there have been no preterm and low birth weight deaths in the past two years.

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Despite these glowing achievements, a number of challenges remain. Because of long distances, some women do not honour KMC appointments in hospital because of lack of means and sometimes public transport, Ottop says. “The woman takes care of the baby, but most decisions concerning the child are taken by the father. In some cultures, the decision to take the child to hospital or accept kangaroo mother care must be approved by the husband before the wife agrees,” Ottop explains. On the other hand, Mbororo tribes people consider preterm babies a curse. “Talking them out of such a belief is not easy, but we keep sensitising by passing through their traditional and religious leaders. It is time-consuming, no doubt, but we cannot give up. Sensitisation is continuous,” she assures. 

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Similarly, medical staff are trained, but when their spouses are transferred, they are obliged to also go on transfer, Francisca says. “This has negatively impacted the project because staff are not maintained in the same stations for long,” she says with regret. “Nevertheless, we hope UNICEF will extend the project to other health districts in the region. We would like to see preterm and low birth weight babies in Moloundou, over 500 km from Bertoua, receive the same KMC care,” she pleads.

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Nalé Germaine epouse Bombo, a trained KMC nurse and Matron of the Neonatal Ward of Bertoua Regional Hospital, says they do not have a single KMC bed. “So many people seek our services, but we have little equipment to meet demand. Moreover, the KMC unit is too narrow. The number of babies we receive has shot up by 50 per cent, but there is little space to accommodate them and their mothers. We urgently need equipment, material and more space,” Nalé Germaine appeals.  

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Dzemta Marlyse, a KMC nurse with Catholic Integrated Health Centre, Nkolbikon, Bertoua, on her part would like to see regular refresher courses organised to enable them keep abreast. Dr Mwam King Rugambwa, Deputy Director of the Protestant Hospital, Garoua Boulai, insists his maternity needs incubators to manage low birth weights of less than 1.1kg. The hospital has been managing babies weighing between 1.1kg and 2.4kg; while referring those below 1.1kg to Bertoua.

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