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©VSO/Ginny Lattul

Stopping newborn deaths in Ethiopia


Half of all new mothers in developing countries like Ethiopia give birth without a skilled health professional present, often at home. This means complications can be catastrophic, with mothers not able to access medical care to save their babies - or themselves. 

Eighteen-year-old Haimanot Haile, thankfully, has given birth to her baby boy in Arbaminch General Hospital - one of seven Ethiopian hospitals VSO has supported to establish fully-equipped neonatal intensive care units.

The rate of newborn babies dying in these hospitals has decreased by an average of 40% as a result of VSO support.

Tiny premature baby in an incubator grasps finger ©VSO/Ginny Lattul

"Had my baby and I been at home, the situation would have been much worse" 

Through our efforts, facilities are available where Haimanot has been able to stay for the two weeks in which her little boy, born weighing just 3.5lbs, has been in intensive care. A separate room is available where her son can get the skin-to-skin contact that massively improve newborn survival chances.

VSO has funded specialist equipment like V-scanners. There are dedicated room for babies with infectious diseases like meningitis, and hot rooms to help premature babies keep warm.

Just as important as having the right equipment is having the right expertise. We've provided training and on-the-job mentoring to nurses ensure these 'model' units are adequately staffed, and are supporting them with data collection and application. 

Nurse at Arbaminch Hospital | VSO International

 “These is a high team spirit amongst the NICU staff, a high level of cooperation. There is consistency in the service, consistency in treatment and monitoring by all staff. We are cascading the training to other nurses from the surrounding hospitals. We share resources and we share skills and knowledge.” -Solomon Tesfaye, Head nurse at Arbaminch General Hospital

VSO volunteers have played a central role in establishing the units, then reducing their involvement so that locally-trained staff can take over full responsibility.

Not only has the number of babies who die in the first 28 days decreased by 40% - there has been a huge increase in demand and usage of the hospitals, with the number of mothers bringing their baies to be admimtted increasing by half. 

An independent evaluation has found that VSO’s approach to newborn care in Ethiopia is “affordable, well accepted by hospital management and integrated into existing hospital routines, which all help guarantee the project’s sustainability”.

Mother smiles at her newborn baby in hospital | VSO ©VSO/Ginny Lattul

More mums get to take their babies home, thanks to improved neonatal healthcare

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