xi's moments
Home | Africa

Joint efforts help reduce maternal and newborn deaths in African nations

By OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-07-27 10:27

Maureen Khakali, who is from Kenya's Kakamega County, gave birth prematurely to two boys last year. The underweight children were put in incubators in intensive care for newborns.

One of the twins died a few days later, and the surviving brother, named Lucky, remained in intensive care at Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital.

Fortunately, Lucky was in good hands at the hospital and was monitored at all times by a program called Remote Monitoring Solution, which tracked his vital signs and could alert the medical staff if problems arose.

The program was implemented by the United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, in collaboration with Kenya's Ministry of Health, using funds provided by China through the South-South Cooperation framework.

Paul Kisia, a UNICEF Kenya health specialist, said that having the right equipment has improved outcomes for premature babies and increased the demand for specialized care across the country.

"These solutions enable facility managers to electronically manage inventories and equipment status in real-time, increasing equipment availability, functionality and use," Kisia was quoted on UNICEF Kenya's website as saying.

Preventable maternal and newborn deaths have bedeviled African countries for decades. For example, according to UNICEF data, 64,500 children die in Kenya each year before reaching the age of 5, mostly of preventable causes. Three-fourths of these deaths occur before a child's first birthday. Diarrhea, pneumonia and neonatal complications are the main causes of death.

It is for this reason that Kenya was identified among seven other African countries as beneficiaries of a South-South Cooperation initiative to increase investment and place a priority on saving the lives of children and their mothers.

In 2018, on the sidelines of the meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Beijing, a session called "China-Africa Cooperation in Maternal and Newborn Health" was organized by UNICEF, the National Health Commission of China and the African Union.

During the session, delegates said that South-South Cooperation-the collaboration among developing countries in the "global south", which generally refers to regions within Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania-offers an unprecedented opportunity to improve maternal and newborn health in Africa, drawing on successful examples from China's experience.

Four years later, the benefits of the meeting have started to be felt across the African continent, as two of the beneficiary countries completed the projects initiated by funds provided by China through UNICEF.

Earlier this month, UNICEF officials in Sudan and Kenya joined the Chinese embassies in those countries in celebrating the successful completion of the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Project of the Chinese South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund.

According to Mandeep O'Brien, UNICEF's representative to Sudan, the generous support of China has given locals an opportunity to prevent newborn deaths.

"UNICEF Sudan in partnership with China and Sudan's Ministry of Health has been able to train over 100 community midwives, who now support their communities for a lasting impact and improve access to early essential and emergency newborn care services for 59,400 mothers and their newborn children in West Darfur and Khartoum states," O'Brien said.

Since the agreement was reached in China in 2018, UNICEF has come up with country-specific measures to improve maternal and neonatal health services. This has been achieved by using the $8 million grant that the China International Development Cooperation Agency provided for Kenya, Sudan, Niger, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania.

UNICEF records show that in Ethiopia, the grant was used to improve the quality of healthcare for newborns through training and mentorship of health practitioners and the tailored provision of equipment.

The grant has also helped to improve the quality of services provided through newborn intensive care units, the integrated management of newborn and childhood illnesses, community-based newborn care and clinical mentorship.

In Niger, UNICEF is using the grant from China to support implementation of the Community-Integrated Management of Childhood Illness program and improve the quality of maternal and newborn care in 51 integrated health centers. More than 260,000 children and 96,000 women and mothers living far from health facilities have benefited from the project.

Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349