Munyinga province in northern Burundi has a population of about 700,000, yet no hospital in the area had a neonatology unit until recently. Premature newborns were transported by ambulance to the regional hospital of Ngozi, 80 kilometers away—putting fragile, premature babies at risk. As a result, many preemies died.
With support from USAID, Pathfinder International trained 20 nurses and doctors in Muyinga and Kayanza provinces in the care and treatment of premature babies during May and June 2013. The USAID-funded program also purchased 24 incubators and 20 electrical syringe pumps for hospitals in the two provinces.
At the hospital in Muyinga, five nurses and a doctor were trained in neonatology. One of them, Dr. Salvator Misago, is now head of neonatology services. A hospital building was also rehabilitated to accommodate neonatology services, including an inpatient ward and a ward for four new incubators. In the last 12 months, from February 2013 to February 2014, the neonatology service in Muyinga Hospital admitted 122 premature babies from Muyinga, Kirundo and Karuzi provinces.
“We no longer play the role of powerless spectators in case of premature birth like before,” says Misago. “We save lives, and families are thankful for our services.”
One mother, Uwimana Saidatte, 19, lives eight kilometers from Muyinga. She delivered her first baby, a boy, at 32 weeks. Weighing 1.8 kilograms at birth, the baby was unable to nurse and was immediately placed in an incubator.
“The following day, he was only able to swallow drops of breast milk that I had squeezed on his tongue, but from the fourth day on he could suck milk quite well and cry as a normal baby. I felt relieved,” said Saidatte.
The baby was christened "Kubwimana," which means “up to God.”
Muyinga Hospital is committed to continuing vital neonatology services for the community. In December 2012, the hospital installed running water, toilet facilities and subdivided space for the incubator ward, a guard room and a washing room. The hospital also bought additional equipment and materials and fully staffed the neonatology unit.
The Burundi Maternal and Child Health Program ran from October 2007 to December 2013 as part of USAID's support to the Government of Burundi to improve maternal and child health services and strengthen the national health system.
Last updated: March 27, 2014