In November 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended caring of preterm infants using Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC).
World Kangaroo Mother Care Day, which is marked on May 15, is, therefore, commemorated annually to raise awareness of the importance of the KMC to newborn care.
The Kangaroo Mother Care, or KMC, sometimes called skin-to-skin care, is a technique of newborn care where babies are kept skin-to-skin with a parent, typically the mother.
It is a kind of care for preterm infants by carrying them skin-to-skin on the mother’s chest and exclusively breastfeeding them.
The KMC initiative has been found to be effective in all healthcare facilities, particularly in both low- and middle-income countries.
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Globally, it is estimated that about 15 million babies are born preterm annually with over one million dying as a result of complications.
Health professionals say complications of prematurity and low birth weight are among the leading causes of neonatal deaths worldwide.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), KMC significantly reduced complications due to prematurity such as hypothermia (low body temperature) and reduced the risk of death by 50 per cent.
As part of strategies to deal with the preterm issues in the country, the Ghana Health Service (GHS), UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in collaboration with civil society organisations and development partners, have intensified efforts to promote the Kangaroo Mother Care initiative to improve newborn care across health facilities in the country.
The Rural Initiatives for Self-Empowerment (RISE-Ghana) is one of the non-governmental organisations complementing the efforts of the Regional Health Directorate to implement the KMC initiative in the Kassena-Nankana West District in the Upper East Region.
In a statement to mark this year’s International Kangaroo Mother Care Awareness Day, Mr Awal Ahmed Kariyama called for increased advocacy on the use of KMC to reduce neonatal mortalities, particularly those resulting from preterm deliveries.
He attributed the low uptake of Kangaroo Mother Care to ignorance, limited advocacy and the lack of coordinated and sustained action to ensure adoption by mothers who need it.
According to him, uptake of KMC remained low in many parts of the country in spite of the several benefits associated with the practice.
He explained that evidence from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF showed that proximity with the mother facilitated breastfeeding, reduced risks of nosocomial infections (infections acquired in the hospital or health facility due to gaps in infection prevention and control).
Call for action
Mr Kariyama has, therefore, urged health workers and professional associations to accept and promote KMC for its accelerated use to save newborn lives and improve newborn care outcomes in the country.
He has also called for the incorporation of KMC into pre-service and in-service curricula for all health workers who care for newborns to increase understanding of proper KMC implementation and to address health worker perceptions that may be barriers to its use.
According to Mr Kariyama, KMC had been found to be effective in all healthcare facilities in both low- and middle-income countries.
He pointed out that the Kangaroo Mother Care “was recommended for the routine care of newborns weighing 2kg or less at birth”, and should be initiated in healthcare facilities as soon as the newborns are clinically stable.
Mr Kariyama was of the view that, the gains from the pilot project dubbed: Mother Baby Friendly Health Facility Initiative (MBFHI), which is being funded by UNICEF Ghana and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the Ghana Health Service and local civil society organisations, aimed at educating community leaders and families about the benefits of optimal breastfeeding and newborn care practices such as KMC ought to be scaled up to cover more communities in the country.