Case Study: A Promise Renewed: Kangaroo Mother Care in Dominican Republic
From 1991 to 2007, the infant mortality rate in the Dominican Republic fell by almost 40 percent, from 59 to 36 deaths per 1,000 live births. However, the newborn mortality rate remained largely static, 24 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1991, and 23 in 2007. In 2011, a total of 5,259 infants died. Addressing newborn mortality is crucial if the country is to achieve MDG 4: reduce child mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2015. Scaling up proven interventions to save newborn lives is vital to attain the ambitious, but achievable goal of the Child Survival Call to Action and end preventable child deaths. The Dominican Government, with support from USAID and UNICEF, among others, is working to address the main causes of newborn deaths: infections, birth asphyxia, and complications related to being born prematurely. These efforts are delivering dramatic results: a 21 percent reduction in infant mortality from 2012 (2,366 infant deaths) to 2013 (1,877 infant deaths).
Experience shows that, even with limited resources, local efforts can save the lives of the most vulnerable babies. The San Vicente de Paul Hospital in San Francisco de Macoris had one of the highest rates of newborn mortality in the country. Supported by USAID's Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, a team from the hospital travelled to Colombia to learn how to implement Kangaroo Mother Care - a proven intervention to provide effective care and follow up to premature and low birth weight babies, through skin-to-skin contact, promotion of breastfeeding and close follow-up of mother and baby. The program gives the mother a central role in the health of her vulnerable newborn, and creates supportive groups among mothers and within families. After only three years of implementation. Initially operated out of the tiny office of Nurse Lucy Reyes, the hospital reduced newborn mortality by almost 50 percent after only three years. The work by female nurses, doctors and psychologists has been integral to this success. The hospital is now a training center and has supported teams to set up Kangaroo Mother Care programs in three other national priority hospitals for reducing newborn mortality. The first of these new hospitals already reduced newborn mortality by almost 20 percent.
Lucy Reyes, Neonatal Nurse, San Vicente de Paul Hospital says, "I am in love with this program; I feel so happy when I see a mother smiling with her baby in Kangaroo Mother Care, and when the child is big, and the mother stops by to show us the child, and says to the hospital staff, 'This is one of your children'. My dream is that the Ministry of Health expands this program throughout the country, so that all children who are born too soon have the chance to live."
Last updated: September 12, 2014