Senegal: kangaroo mother care is saving newborns

Coumba Fall, 23, has been in the Albert Royer hospital in Dakar, Senegal, for four days. Sitting in the Kangaroo Care Unit she has her baby wrapped tightly against her chest with a pink shawl, just his head sticking out. Adama was born after an eight month pregnancy and weighed just 1.6 kg at birth.

Shortly after her son’s birth, Coumba realized that Adama was not growing and was starting to lose weight. She became very worried and anxious, and most of her family members believed that Adama would not survive.

But after coming to the Albert Royer’s Kangaroo Mother Care Unit, things started to get better. “The staff of the Kangaroo Mother Care Unit are taking care of my baby and keeping me updated with very useful information. I stay in physical contact with him and he is getting better and better now,” she said.

Committing to Child Survival

The Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed Progress Report 2014, launched today by UNICEF, shows strong global progress in reducing preventable child and newborn mortality – and saving babies like Adama. The report emphasises the huge impact of simple, cost-effective interventions, such as kangaroo mother care, where preterm infants are kept in skin-to-skin contact with their mother.

In a strong demonstration of commitment to addressing preventable child mortality, Senegal launched a sharpened country strategy for child and newborn survival in July 2013. At the Albert Royer hospital, kangaroo mother care is a key intervention saving the lives of newborn babies.

UNICEF Kangaroo Mother Care
(c) UNICEF Senegal

Download this year’s Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed report here.

Highly efficient and low cost

Three other mothers from the suburbs of Dakar are in the same room as Coumba, at Albert Royer, their babies’ sleeping quietly.

“Since the Albert Royer Kangaroo Mother Care Unit opened in 2011, with the support of UNICEF, 181 babies have been admitted…” says Dr Haby Signaté, Head of the neonatology service. “Only one baby has died. We have managed to save the lives of many children using the Kangaroo Mother Care method. They all recover. The method has proven to be highly efficient and extremely low-cost.”

“The first baby who came to the Kangaroo Mother Care Unit came from Touba, 200 kilometers east of Dakar.” Says the head of the Kangaroo Mother Care Unit. “He was born at twenty-eight weeks, the sixth month of pregnancy, and he only weighed 800 grams at birth. He was declared ‘not viable’. That child left healthy”.

What is Kangaroo Mother Care?

Developed in Colombia in the 1970s, kangaroo mother care keeps premature newborns alive during the earliest days of life. A 2014 multi-country review of kangaroo mother care demonstrates the benefits of this simple, low-cost intervention:

  • 40 per cent reduced risk of death.
  • 55 per cent reduced risk of hospital-borne infection and sepsis.
  • 66 per cent reduced risk of hypothermia.
  • 2.2 fewer days in hospital stays, on average.
  • 27 per cent increased rates of exclusive breastfeeding and 36 per cent increased rates in exclusive breastfeeding from 1 to 3 months.
  • 17 per cent increased parent/family satisfaction.

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