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This post is written by Dr. Shaun Morris, who created the Neonatal Survival Kit that Baby Hero helps fund. He recently returned from a trip to Pakistan and Kenya to visit the study sites for the Kit. While in Kenya, he heard a remarkable story of a pregnant mother who used this kit for an unassisted birth.
As part of our recent field visit to Kenya, my colleague Lisa and I visited several dispensaries to observe various parts of the trial in action. Dispensaries in rural Kenya function like primary health care facilities providing everything from immunizations and assisting in deliveries. In Coastal Kenya, where approximately 80% of births still occur at home, the government has launched an initiative to increase births at dispensaries with the assistance of trained birth attendants.
The baby was born on this porch outside the dispensary!
The dispensaries themselves are very simple – generally one or two rooms with a single examining table and a small collection of essential medicines. Almost without exception, when we arrive at a dispensary, it is completely surrounded by mothers with children sitting on the steps or under trees, patiently waiting to be seen by a health worker.
At one dispensary, we visited with Patrick, a passionate local Community Health Extension Worker (CHEW) who is passionate about improving the health of his community. At the end of our meeting, he told us an incredible story that had happened just two days before.
A 30-year-old woman came to the dispensary in labor with her husband at about 5am in the morning only to find it closed with no one around to assist her. This expectant mother had received the Neonatal Survival Kit as part of an ongoing study and had brought it with her to the dispensary. Knowing that she was ready to push her baby out, she took the plastic birthing mat out of the kit, placed it on the concrete walkway of the building and delivered her baby on her own directly onto the clean mat while her husband watched. Minutes after the baby was born, Patrick arrived on the scene and used the clean cord clamp, ties and sterile blade provided in the kit to safely cut the umbilical cord.
As Patrick told us this story, it was clear that the kit had been pivotal in ensuring a safe birth for both mother and baby, and proof of the kit’s versatility to suit less than ideal situations that mothers are giving birth in.