#7D4H - Guest Blogger Ayokunle Abogan #MCH

About the guest blogger: Ayokunle ‘Ayo’ Abogan is from Nigeria, and (as a young boy) went with his mother, now a retired midwife, to rural villages in Nigeria where she volunteered her midwife skills to those who had no healthcare facilities. He plans to move to Botswana soon to start his job with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), and focus on malaria elimination in Southern Africa.


Occasionally, kangaroo mother care (KMC) can be the difference between life and death. According to the WHO, about 20 million low-birth-weight (LBW) babies are born in each year. Developing countries account for the largest number of LBW babies, globally. Sadly, preterm births contribute to the high number of neonatal deaths in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. About two weeks ago, my mother’s friend visited her and she panicked about the level of care given to her brother’s preterm baby at a hospital. The baby was born three months early and weighed 1.2 kg (roughly 2.4 pounds). According to her, together with her brother, they had to call or visit up to 20 hospitals in the city before they eventually found a bed space for the baby at another hospital. This long search is also as a result of the current nationwide strike by doctors and nurses in public, general hospitals in Nigeria. This adventure took them about 5 hours, and they immediately had to pay up to $400 before the baby and her mother were allowed into the hospital.

Sometimes, preterm babies die because they lack access to modern medical devices such as incubators. Nevertheless, intermittent power supply and costly repairs are probable challenges in areas where incubators are available. While the current hospital had brand new medical equipment (including incubators and other devices that were still wrapped in boxes), the owner of the hospital was out of the country. As a result, nobody knew how to operate the machine. Additionally, the hospital had no pediatrician available to attend to the baby, and the doctor on duty was clueless about what he needed to do to save the life of this baby. My mother’s friend, angrily, was screaming to ensure that everything possible was done to care for the baby and her mother. Eventually, she called another friend at a nearby hospital who advised them to start KMC, immediately.

So, what is KMC? According to the WHO, “it was first presented by Rey and Martinez (1) in Bogotá, Colombia, where it was developed as an alternative to inadequate and insufficient incubator care for those preterm newborn infants who had overcome initial problems and required only to feed and grow.” Additionally, the WHO defines it as “care of preterm infants carried skin-to-skin with the mother. It is a powerful, easy-to-use method to promote the health and well-being of infants born preterm as well as full-term.” Some of its key features include “early, continuous and prolonged skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the baby; exclusive breastfeeding (ideally); and it is a gentle, effective method that avoids the agitation routinely experienced in a busy ward with preterm infants.”

You are probably wondering why they had to leave the previous hospital. So, instead of wrapping the baby in a blanket to reduce her exposure to the harmattan (a seasonal temperature change in Nigeria, causing colder weather conditions in the country — nothing like U.S. or U.K. during the winter!) and keep her warm, one of the nurses decided to boil several sachets of water. Afterwards, this nurse put the hot sachets in a blanket, and wrapped the baby up in the blanket! The baby was badly bruised. The fear of working with unskilled health personnel, probability of getting infections, and intermittent power supply led this couple to find another hospital.

There is good news - the baby is alive as a result of KMC, and, eventually, the hospital fixed their incubator! Through research, including this one, I also found that baby boys are at a higher risk of death and disability due to preterm birth than baby girls (are females really the weaker sex?). Perhaps, this fact was on her side too. My mother’s friend had no idea such a method existed, and she wished that more women including those living in remote areas, as well as those lacking access to modern medical devices such as incubators, can have adequate information and education about this easy-to-use method. I shared some KMC knowledge I learnt in graduate school with my mother and her friend using pictures and articles on the web (thanks, Google). KMC isn’t limited to mothers alone. While mothers are recuperating from child birth, fathers can also provide kangaroo father care, KFC (I totally made that up), although this does not come with the bearded guy (Colonel Sanders), or the chicken and fries.

Additional (non-electronic) sources mentioned:

(1) Rey ES, Martinez HG. Manejo racional del niño prematuro. In: Universidad Nacional, Curso de Medicina Fetal, Bogotá, Universidad Nacional, 1983

Call to action: A child saved today is a worthwhile cause and it impacts parents, families and our communities.  Are you aware of any organizations in developing countries or community based organizations working in remote areas that can increase the IEC (information, education and communication) networks for KMC? Can you join us and encourage them (through donations, advocacy, etc.) to ensure that LBW babies can survive, teach people in our community about the importance and successful outcomes of KMC in health centers and the home environment, and reduce the number of neonatal deaths? 

About today's look: Pictured here are Ayo and Marian (Left and Right). Ayo sent his picture in from Nigeria, where he is wearing a gorgeous purple top to address health in solidarity for MCH. Marian took this picture in Boston, Massachusetts (USA) at the Massachusetts Museum of Fine Arts. Artwork by Chuck Close. All of the dresses for 7 Dresses 4 Health were designed and sown by Kim's Fashion Design. Love the look? Visit Kim at 100 Huntington Ave, Boston MA 02116, call her at (617) 267-9299 or email her: info@kimsfashion.com. Mention 7 Dresses 4 Health for a special discount!

Campaign Update (2017): All 7 Dresses 4 Health blogs were migrated from a former site, so the sharing analytics are inconsistent from when they were first published. We apologize to our guest bloggers, and readers, for this inconvenience. That said, the campaign garnered an average of 5K hits per blog, over 500,000 readers throughout 2015! Additionally, the average number of shares per guest blog was over 150x on social media (through Facebook and Twitter). Thank you for making this incredible campaign possible - and for all that it was for so many. With gratitude, Marian & the ACI Team