Radio programme empowers communities in Bungoma to save lives
By Teresa Akun
Between May 2017 and April 2018, Save the Children conducted a radio campaign in Bungoma County to support awareness of Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) as a lifesaving intervention for preterm and low birthweight babies. The campaign which was funded by UKAID through the County Innovation Challenge Fund (CICF) consisted of weekly radio sessions led by community health volunteers and KMC Champions in the community. The sessions which combined interactive discussions and radio drama targeted changes in behaviour and attitudes towards preterm and low birth weight babies.
Joyce Soita, 32, gave birth to her twin babies in September 2017 at a time when Kenya was experiencing a nationwide health workers industrial strike. The babies who were delivered in a private health centre weighed 2500g and 1500g respectively.
Soita says she was happy with the baby weighing 2500g, but did not like the baby weighing 1500g as she thought it was not fully developed. She was discharged and referred to another hospital for further medical attention since the smaller baby was not breastfeeding.
According to Soita, her baby’s life was saved by a community member who told her about KMC and introduced her to a KMC champion mother attached to a nearby health centre.
Story in the beneficiaries’ own words:
“I went into labour when the health care workers were on strike. The nearby public hospital was closed so I went to deliver at a nursing home. I gave birth to twins but I was surprised to see that one baby was active and bigger than the other one. I was very worried because the smaller baby was not breastfeeding well,” says Soita.
“The nurse referred me to Cottage Hospital in Kiminini as the small baby needed to be put on an incubator. Unfortunately, they did not have an incubator, and so they could not admit my baby. I was stranded and decided to go home. I gave the small baby water mixed with salt and sugar; she continued to be very cold and slept all the time. Then I gave her cow’s milk diluted with water but this did not make her feel better.”
“One of my neighbours visited me after attending a radio lesson that she said is conducted by a ‘kangaroo mother’. She told me that during the radio lesson she heard the ‘kangaroo mother’ saying that very small babies can be helped to survive if they went to hospital and are put on Kangaroo Mother Care. She gave me the telephone number of the ‘kangaroo mother’.”
“I had given up on the small baby because I had tried all that I could and she was not improving. I had decided to pay more attention to the bigger baby.”
“When I called the ‘kangaroo mother’, she advised me to take the babies to Tongaren Health Centre. The nurse at the hospital weighed the babies; the active one weighed 2600g while the smaller had reduced to 1100g.”
“The nurse was very kind, she gave me hope. She talked to me about KMC, showed me how to attach the baby to her chest in order to provide the baby with warmth from her body and said that the baby would grow better and will begin breastfeeding well.”
Since the smaller baby was not breastfeeding easily, the nurse taught me how to remove milk from the breast and feed the baby using a cup. When I started KMC and giving breast milk using a cup, the baby started being active and making some movements. I had given up on the small baby; I could have lost her if I had stayed at home.”
“The nurse introduced me to a KMC champion close to our village. The champion visited me every day to check on how I was doing KMC. I continued with KMC at home and went for follow up visits at Tangaren Health Centre. My babies are now six months old and weighing 8Kgs and 6Kgs. You can see that they are very happy,” says Soita.
According to KMC Champion, Scholastica Wanyama, the radio campaign has increased awareness of KMC in the community. She says: “I have two groups for radio listenership and this radio has helped many people. When Soita contacted me, I asked her to come to hospital so that she could get advice from the nurse and other mothers who have gone through KMC.”
“I appreciate Soita and her husband, because when I shared my experience I thought they would not follow the instructions since they had given up on the smaller child. I am happy that they followed the advice and even joined the KMC support group. The babies are now doing well,” she adds.
Save the Children with funding from UKAID through the County Innovation Challenge Fund (CICF) is implementing Kangaroo Mother Care in 18 health facilities in Bungoma County. The program aims to improve access to quality care for preterm and low birth weight babies by building the capacity of health care workers, infrastructure development and community awareness through mass media.
The project is working with KMC champions to educate mothers who deliver pre-term babies to accept and practice KMC. The project has so far trained 120 health workers, renovated 15 health facilities and formed 10 radio listenership groups as part of the mass media campaign.