Cameroon is planning to extend the "kangaroo" mother care method, which has been successfully tested in the country for several years, to reduce early infant mortality. The method involves placing a premature or underweight newborn skin-to-skin with its parent.
"It should be sustained, reinforced, and expanded to achieve comprehensive coverage across our entire nation, ensuring the survival and balanced development of infants in both urban and rural areas," said Minister of Public Health (Minsante), Manaouda Malachie at the launch of International Prematurity Day and Prematurity Month activities in Yaounde last November 17.
Recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), the "kangaroo" method involves placing a premature (i.e. born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or underweight newborn skin-to-skin with its parent. This method has been shown to reduce mortality, serious illnesses, and infections, shorten hospital stays, encourage breastfeeding, and strengthen the emotional bond between mother and child," says nurse Eveline Kameni. Health authorities assure that this treatment technique has proven its effectiveness in the country. According to Manaouda Malachie, out of 1,525 premature and low-birth-weight newborns received in "kangaroo mother units", 1,221 survived thanks to this method. "That's a success rate of 80%," he estimates.
Given these results, the government wants to replicate this "simple, easy to practice, and inexpensive" method throughout the country. The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) is supporting the government in scaling up the program. To this end, UNICEF has just handed over $100,000 (nearly XAF60 million) worth of newborn care medical equipment to the Minsante for use at the Chantal Biya Foundation's Mother and Child Center. According to its director, Professor Paul Nkoki Ndombo, the center welcomes more than 3,000 premature babies every year, 70% of whom are very premature and require considerable oxygen.
According to Belise Ngum, a UNICEF health specialist, prematurity is a major public health issue in Cameroon. Indeed, 28 babies die for every 1,000 live births, which equates to a ratio of 3 newborns out of 10 who die as a result of the complications of prematurity, she says, based on official statistics. In other words, neonatal mortality is still high in the country, despite therapeutic advances and improved technical facilities. Minsanté acknowledges that the country still needs to make further efforts if it is to reduce neonatal mortality to 12 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030, in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.2. To achieve this, the country is relying on the "kangaroo" method to improve the chances of survival for premature babies.
Patricia Ngo Ngouem