Newborn care requires special attention in African countries-say Experts

By Elias Hakizimana.

Newborn care was found critical in most of African countries, involving a number of deaths and stunted children in return as this is not taken care of.

Experts in healthcare and newborn care are gathered in Kigali for a two-day third Rwanda Paediatric Association (RPA) annual scientific conference with the theme: “Moving forward in Neonatal and Paediatrics Care in Rwanda” to discuss challenges facing the progress in reducing newborn mortality in Rwanda and suggest solutions.

The conference has started on September 4-5, 2018 and embarked on current progress and challenges facing neonatal babies and suggest solutions to curb neonatal and infant deaths. It gathered together Hospital Directors, Paediatricians and Neonatologists and experts from different countries including USA, India, Ethiopia, etc.

The Minister of Health Dr Diane Gashumba with Hospital Directors and other healthcare providers during the kick off of the conference yesterday.

“Most babies are dying at home simply because they lacked care,” says Prof. Arti Maria, Head of Neonatology department in India.

Maria said there is a number of challenges that compromise quality of care of a newborn following the research they conducted dubbed “Scope of mother/parent’s involvement in care at facility”.

She said most of parents do not care about hand washing before breast feeding their babies, which is a critical care to babies.

She said that parents should also take care of how to treat babies, feeding, because very often babies die at home.

Prof Maria Arti said that family centered care (FCC) is a milestone for securing newborn care.

Family centered care is defined as a partnership approach to health care decision-making between the family and health care provider. FCC is considered the standard of pediatric health care by many clinical practices, hospitals, and healthcare groups.

“Mothers should be educated about all these kinds of care to be able to handle their babies at home,” she said.

Susan Niermeyer, MD, USAID and AAP said that in developed countries every health facility has a mother care unity to follow on a new born health since a mother is pregnant.

“We really need to strengthen special support to the community to secure health of newborn, USAID is investing in a number of activities to care for newborn and is doing a situation analysis in Rwanda to see how the issue is,” said Niermeyer.

The situation analysis is also being conducted by USAID in eight African countries including Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Bangladesh, among others.

In income countries, these practices have reduced infant mortality, contributing to new born health improvement at 90 and 97 percent according to experts.

Niermeyer said that health system for a new born require infrastructure such as equipment and commodities needed to secure newborn health, prevention and screening of prematurity, etc.

Dr AGABA Faustine, CHUK-Neotatologist said that screening of newborn in Rwanda remains a challenge as specialized healthcare providers are still few like in eye treatment, thus, this system of screening is among the solutions to reducing newborn mortality.

He noted some big challenges including prematurity, neonatal infection and birth asphyxia as the leading threats still impeding newborn health in Rwanda, Prematurity being a leading cause of deaths among all of these reasons.

“When properly cared for, newborn with such issues can survive but it is still difficult in Rwanda. In income countries, over 50 percent of such babies survive,” said Agaba.

A pregnant mother is advised to have four-time tests before delivering a newborn and to deliver at a health facility to avoid all these problems.

Dr Lysine Tuyisenge, a Paediatrician and member of RPA said that they are looking for efficient ways of reducing infant deaths by assessing current problems.

She said that paediatricians’ number has increased from 15 to 80 since eight years ago, which also played a significant role in boosting health for newborns.

The Ministry of Health with RPA and foreign Universities established a programme of special courses to Rwanda’s paediatricians to increase their skills and 10 graduate every year according to Tuyisenge.

She said that Rwandans should learn from family centered care good practices from income countries as they help to save lives of new born.

“These are good practices we should learn from, family centered care involves the role of both parents, the mother and father in helping a healthcare provider to treat their baby. It can be washing the newborn, notifying any other unusual situation of the baby to a healthcare provider, etc” Tuyisenge said, adding that these are things parents can learn in Rwanda despite there is not enough paediatricians and Neonatologists.



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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,( is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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