A refresher training course was conducted recently by Global Health Partnerships (GHP) for the Kenyan community health workers (CHWs) who visit newborn infants during their first week of life. The 20 CHWs in attendance had the opportunity to share their experiences from more than 700 infants visited during the first year of the project, as well as solidify their skills for the assessment of newborns. Their main task is to check for signs of infection, such as fever, rapid breathing, and skin pustules (boils), that can rapidly lead to death if not identified and treated quickly. The meeting also provided an opportunity to address challenges and concerns that have arisen, such as how to arrange rapid transport of a sick infant that is found during a home visit. The CHWs renewed their commitment to serve their villages as volunteers to improve the health of young children.
Like many women receiving care at the Kisesini clinic in eastern Kenya, Joyce’s pregnancy progressed normally without problems. She delivered a baby boy who at first appeared very healthy. Later that day while at home the baby was warmer than usual and was not breast-feeding well. Joyce did not realize that this was the beginning of a life-threatening infection. Fortunately, the community health worker (CHW) in Joyce’s village paid her a visit, as he does for all newborn infants in his village. John is one of 20 CHWs who received training in a Global Health Partnerships (GHP) newborn home visitation project. When he found that the baby had a fever of 104°F he brought Joyce and her baby to Kisesini clinic, where the nurses immediately recognized the signs of sepsis (severe infection) and started high doses of intravenous antibiotics. Joyce and her baby were then transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital to continue the life-saving treatment.
In Kenya and other African countries many newborns die within the first week of life, usually from infection or other preventable causes. The CHW home visitation project, funded by your donations to GHP, can save the lives of newborn infants who often die quickly if an infection is not detected and treated promptly. The CHWs have visited more than 700 newborns during the first year of this innovative project, and the mortality rate for these infants during the first month of life is considerably lower than the average mortality rate in Kenya
Elizabeth is a healthy and happy 5 month old infant, but her start in life could have ended in tragedy. Her mother delivered her at home prematurely, weighing about 4 pounds. The village community health worker (CHW) was called to the home, and fortunately she had been trained to assess and provide initial care for newborns in the GHP newborn home visitation program. The CHW recognized the signs of the baby’s trouble breathing and arranged transport to the nearest hospital with incubators and capability to care for premature infants. Elizabeth stayed in the hospital for 3 weeks before she was healthy enough to go home to her village. She is now a healthy 5 month old infant, shown in the photo with her mother, thanks to the support of donors who are providing the funds to continue this newborn survival project.
CHW Alice (right) with a premature baby and mother
The cell phone of Nurse Nicholas rang at 3 am. It was Alice, a community health worker (CHW) calling about the delivery of a premature baby in her remote Kenyan village. From her training, Alice recognized the rapid breathing and chest movements that signaled a danger sign of serious illness for this 4 pound newborn infant. With her call, the Global Health Partnerships ambulance was summoned. After a long and difficult ride on rugged unpaved roads, mother and baby were safely in the hands of the staff at the nearest hospital that is capable of caring for premature infants.
Over 500 newborns have been visited in their homes by the 20 trained CHWs since the home visitation project started this year. The CHWs are performing their volunteer work remarkably well under very difficult circumstances. If adequate funding can be secured, many more newborn lives can be saved.
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