New-born deaths are a major problem in Bungoma County, with the rate estimated at 31 per 1000 live births. This compares poorly to the national average of 22 per 1000. Of the nine sub- county hospitals in Bungoma, only two are fairly equipped with necessary infrastructure and skilled personnel to manage neonatal complications such as prematurity, neonatal sepsis, neonatal jaundice, birth asphyxia and respiratory distress syndrome. More than 50% of babies in the county are delivered without skilled attendance, in below par hygiene environments such as at home and on the roadsides, or with no possibility for referral should complications arise.
Mount Kenya University’s project seeks to reduce neonatal mortality in Bungoma County by setting up seven special newborn care units in the sub-county hospitals and strengthening the two existing special care units. The seven new special care units will be equipped with two incubators each for warmth and phototherapy. These special units will become local referral centres for neonatal problems, supporting community midwives and the County health care system.
To ensure quality services in the newborn units, the project will provide a three-month neonatology course for 36 health care workers, who will eventually become trainers for their colleagues as well. The health care workers will also receive pediatric consultation support through a telehealth platform to facilitate timely clinical decision making. The telehealth platform will regularly provide interactive best care practices and service updates, and an opportunity for special units’ clinicians to discuss challenges they face with consultant Pediatricians.
Additionally, a Call Center Service will be established to link the special care units, community health volunteers, and mothers of newborns. The service will send messages promoting newborn health to mothers and women on antenatal clinic follow up. Through this service, mothers will access information that will support their ability to make decisions on their newborn’s wellness and seek timely healthcare for them when necessary.
The project will be implemented in collaboration with Fountain Africa Trust (FAT), Bungoma County health management team and Kenya Pediatric Association (KPA).