A newly established Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) has been unveiled at Kailahun District Hospital in Sierra Leone today. This state-of-the-art unit, which was set up by the Government of Sierra Leone through the financial contributions of the Government of China with technical support of the United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF), is designed to provide expert care for sick new-borns (from birth up to 28 days old babies), most of whom require specialised equipment to save their lives.
Established under the program “China-Africa collaboration to accelerate maternal, newborn and child health in Sierra Leone”, the SCBU at Kailahun, together with another SCBU to be established at Sierra Leone Chinese Friendship Hospital (Jui Hospital), will contribute to improving access to the quality of newborn care services in the country. This will help to reduce neonatal deaths, which are currently at 31 per 1000 live births according Sierra Leone Demographic and Health Survey of 2019. This programme is also set to strengthen the network of four existing regional SCBUs and to improve maternal and newborn health services throughout the country.
The Hon. Minister of Health and Sanitation, Prof. Alpha T Wurie said, “The Ministry of Health and Sanitation under my leadership has prioritized improving the quality and range of health services for women and children, especially during times of health emergencies like Covid-19. With the establishment of these SCBUs, where we ensure availability of trained and competent staff, state-of-the-art medical equipment and medicines, we hope to bring smiles and joy to families who may otherwise have lost their babies who were born too early (premature) or too small.”
The establishment of the SCBU at Kailahun, which started in April 2020, has included the provision of lifesaving equipment, drugs and commodities such as incubators, oxygen concentrators, radiant warmers, phototherapy machines, monitors, pulse oximeters, bilirubinometer, infusion and syringe pumps, hemoglobinometer, glucometer to name few of them.
An International paediatrician has been recruited to head the SCBU at Kailahun and to provide continuous on the job training for service providers at the facility. In addition, a Community Health Officer (CHO) and two nurses assigned to work at the SCBU, have received a two-month on the job training at Kenema Hospital and Ola During Children’s Hospital in Freetown, where the SCBUs are already well functioning.
“The Special Care Baby Units will go a long way in enhancing the quality of baby care services in this country and help reduce neonatal deaths. Together with the strengthening of the network of four existing regional SCBUs, this intervention will greatly improve the well-being of mothers and newborns throughout the country,” said H.E. Hu Zhangliang, Ambassador of China to Sierra Leone. “As a reliable friend, China will continue to provide support within her capacity to Sierra Leone for the empowerment of women and children.”
The new SCBU, which has already started admitting patients, has a bed capacity of 10 and is projected to give sick neonates the best chance to receive quality care, attention and the best chance to survive and thrive. Already between April and June 2020, while instalment of equipment was still in progress, survival rates of sick neonates admitted in the hospital have improved significantly thanks to the skilled care and commitment of the newly trained CHO and nurses.
“Especially during times of a health emergencies such as COVID-19, the best chance for a baby’s survival is at a well functional health facility, where the required equipment is in place and where competent service providers are available to attend to all the health needs of babies,” said UNICEF Representative, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh. “The investments which have been made to Kailahun Hospital at this critical time are commendable strides to closing the current gaps in the provision of better quality of health care for every newborn in the country.”
Since 2017 UNICEF has been supporting the operationalization of SCBUs as a key strategy to improve neonatal mortality rates across this country. This is in line with the Government’s “Every Newborn Action Plan”, which was launched in 2018.
Special Care Baby Units are today established in nine hospitals including the Kailahun, with one across eight other districts. To date, more than 12 300 sick newborns have been admitted in these SCBUs and the survival rate is around 80 per cent.
UNICEF has plans to support the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to reach a target of establishing 14 SCBUs in 14 Regional/district hospitals by March 2021.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNICEF Sierra Leone.