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Project to reduce neonatal mortality in PNG

Thousands of babies die every year from preventable diseases in Papua New Guinea, however one of the common killers is hypothermia which can be easily prevented by simple interventions that can keep the baby warm.

Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature of the new born baby falls below 36.5 degrees compared to the normal body temperature which is 36.5 to 37.5 degrees.

From reports, it has been revealed that 6000 new born babies in PNG die every year and most of these deaths are caused by Hypothermia.

To address the high number of Neonatal Mortality, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) partnering with the Eastern Highlands Health Authority and an NGO group Touching the Untouchable piloted a Provincial model of Comprehensive Newborn Care Initiative(CNCI) in the Henganofi District of Eastern Highlands Province in 2016.

The Model is supported with the introduction of the Hypothermia Alerting Device or locally known as the Baby Kol Kilok which is a device that can detect Hypothermia by giving off signal when the baby’s temperature is dropping below 36.5 degrees.
The Hypothermia device is a bracelet that is put around the baby’s writs to monitor the baby’s temperature for Hypothermia.

Over 90 Hypothermia Bracelets have been distributed to new born babies in the Henganofi District by Village Health Volunteers trained under the Early Newborn Care Programme which has been successfully implemented in the district through the support by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The 130 Village Health Volunteers visit new-borns in remote areas to assess and treat minor illness or they can make referrals to the District Health Center if the infant is very sick.

They also monitor the Hypothermia Bracelet within the first 28 days of the baby and one of the most important interventions taught to mothers by this Health Volunteers is the Kangaroo Mother Care or skin to skin contact between mother and child.
Health Specialist from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Dr Ghanashyam Sethy said the intervention will reduce the Neonatal Mortality by 41%.

“This means that we can save around 2800 babies from the 6000 new-borns that die every year in the country”

He said the introduction of the Hypothermia device will help trigger behavioral changes in mothers when doing the Kangaroo Mother Care often and even breast feeding.

“The Baby Kol Kilok will signal the mother when to do the Kangaroo Mother Care which can also lead to the baby to bond with the mother”

Dr Sethy also pointed out that most parents and service providers do know and can monitor Hyperthermia which is fever but they could not monitor Hypothermia before the introduction of the Hypothermia Device.

Meanwhile Cici Ronald a mother to a four days old infant from Saviza village in Henganofi was very impressed with the Hypothermia bracelet.

She said it is easier to monitor her baby in the cold climate with this device and couple of times she was signalled by the device that her baby was getting cold.

“When the bracelet gives off blue light, I know my baby is fine but when the orange light comes on, I know he is cold so I quickly wrap him in some warm clothes or do the skin to skin contact to keep him warm”

The Henganofi District Development Authority has also witnessed how these Health Programmes are changing the lifestyles of the villagers in terms of Health and Hygiene and they have committed to support the programme.

The Henganofi Development Authority has committed K200, 000 to fund this programme in the next 5 years.

Photo: Cici Ronald and her 4 days old baby :PNGFM/PNG Today
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