Malawi Stepping Up Care of Preterm Babies but Gaps Remain

Malawi has one of the highest rates of preterm births globally. Figures from 2015 indicated that over 1 in 10 Malawian babies were born prematurely. And its neonatal death rate was 27 per 1,000 births in 2016. Preterm births are the largest cause of neonatal deaths globally - 35% in 2017.

Malawi was one of the early adopters of kangaroo mother care which involves continuous skin-to-skin contact on the mother's chest to keep the baby warm, increase breastfeeding frequency, and aid in recognising danger signs of illness. By 2005 it had been integrated into national policy for routine care. Yet, even with this low-cost, low-technology solution, Malawi's neonatal mortality rates remained the same in 2016 as it was in 2004 writes Mai-Lei Woo Kinshella, Global Health Research Coordinator at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of British Columbia and Alinane Linda Nyondo-Mipando, Lecturer in Health Systems and Policy, University of Malawi.

A study that was carried out under a project that seeks to integrate neonatal healthcare in Malawi under the auspices of the Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa initiative found that kangaroo mother care is viewed positively and has potential for further routine uptake in striving to eradicate neonatal deaths.

But while it has no direct reliance on technology, resources are still crucial to its practice in hospitals in Malawi. It needs investments in technology, staffing and hospital support in the provision of essential items for preterm infant care.

InFocus

(file photo).

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