Kangaroos in Africa
This method of trying to save the lives of newborn babies is not something new, in fact you could argue that nature invented it long before, but introducing it as a system is a real priority for Save the Children in Tanzania.
In rich countries, premature and seriously underweight babies are put in incubators to keep them at a constant warm temperature. In countries with badly underfunded health systems and unrelaible electricity supplies, this alterative method has been proved to work. Any mother with a baby less that 2 kilos (4.4lbs) is kept in a separate unit where staff can have more involvement.
The method (called “Kumkumbatia mtoto kifuani” – skin-to-skin mother care – in Kiswahili) is to keep the baby in close physical contact with the mother’s chest with as much skin contact as possible. This keeps the baby at a good temperature and starts to encourage breastfeeding, bonding and close attention as well. It is not just mothers who can do this as relatives including the father can provide this kind of care (apart from the breastfeeding) when the mother is resting.
We visited a Mlandizi Health Centre hospital in Kibana district where Save the Children is supporting the unit to introduce Kangaroo Mother Care. We were also able to deliver a large box of the baby caps knitted by Save the Children supporters in the UK. These are also essential for keeping newborns warm enough and are very popular with the mothers as they are very high quality hats and much better than anything that can be bought locally.