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VSO/Ginny Lattul

Reducing newborn deaths

Equipment and skills to reduce newborn deaths

Half of all new mothers in developing countries such as 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. 

Mulay and baby at NICU in Ethiopia VSO/Paul James Driscoll

Mulay and baby Mikail at the NICU at Suhul hospital. Thanks to the NICU’s ability to provide oxygen, baby Mikail spent two weeks being treated for infection and shortness of breath and is now able to go home.

Providing the right resources

VSO is working across Ethiopia to equip hospitals with the resources and skills they need to reduce high rates of nenoatal and maternal mortality. We're working to support:

  • 16 Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs)
  • 4 Paedeatric High Dependency Units (PHDUs)
  • 1 Maternity Waiting Home (MWH)

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

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

The right skills

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

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. 

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.

Attending hospital

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. 

The number of mothers bringing their babies to be admimtted to hospitals has increased 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”.

VSO came here, and we got training and the additional facilities. Now we can give them [babies] oxygen and medicine - it’s simpler. Babies would have died before and now they are more likely to survive.

Rahel Beyan, nurse at Suhul hospital

Case studies


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