MoH to promote Kangaroo Mother Care to help save premature babies


Dr Binagwaho speaks at the opening of the Kangroo Mother Care conference in Kigali yesterday. (Timothy Kisambira)

In 2009, Jessica Twagira delivered a premature baby at seven months of pregnancy.

Faced with the challenge of whether her baby would survive or not, Twagira was advised by her aunt to use the kangaroo care model to help the child grow.

Today, Twagira’s five-year daughter is a beautiful, lively and energetic girl with an impressive performance in school. She’s one of the many healthy children who went through the kangaroo model at birth.

Twagira narrated her story to hundreds of medical experts attending the 10th international conference on Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). 

One of the participants at the conference demonstrates how KMC is done. (Timothy Kisambira)

The Kangaroo mother care is a method used on preterm infants. The method involves infants being carried, usually by the mother, with skin-to-skin contact.

The premature or underweight infant is dressed in a diaper. Socks and a baby cap are maintained in a continuous vertical or semi-vertical position underneath mother’s clothes.

The baby is carried by the mother, but the father or other suitable person may assume the role of kangaroo position provider. Kangaroo position should be maintained until the infant is able to regulate temperature.

“For two months, I carried my baby in this form everyday for 24 hours a day. We only separated when I was going to take a shower,” Twagira said.

Jessica Twagira (R) talking to press. (Timothy Kisambira)

Although Twagira carried her baby solely up to a time she could control her body temperature, the Minister for Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, believes the responsibility of Kangaroo care should not be for a mother only and that fathers can do it as well.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, Dr Binagwaho said 15 per cent of all deaths in Rwanda are within 45 days from the date of birth.

“There are many ways to save these babies that die unnecessarily and kangaroo is one of the best ways,” she said.

“We fully support kangaroo care and we need to discover more about it. We intend to roll it out in all health centres across the country and inculcate it in our early child development,” she added.

Participants following a presentation. (Timothy Kisambira)

She said testimonies show that kangaroo care increases love and child care, and that the brain develops well.

“I know that there is research on how mothers can use kangaroo and work at the same time but I don’t endorse that. We need to give mothers leave from work so that they look after their babies (during that period),” Binagwaho said.

The conference is held under the theme; “Kangaroo Mother Care; An effective way to improve the survival and quality of survival of preterm and low birth weight infants: evidences and successes.”

Medics say preterm birth is the largest direct cause of neonatal mortality globally, accounting for an estimated 27 per cent of the 4 million neo-natal deaths annually.

In high-income countries where tetanus, neo-natal infections and intrapartum-related neo-natal deaths are rare, preterm birth is the dominant cause of neo-natal mortality and morbidity and a major contributor to long term impairment.

Participants at the conference in Kigali. (Timothy Kisambira)

In low-income countries, whilst deaths directly due to preterm birth are minimal, the cause-specific mortality rate is six-fold greater than in high-income countries.

For example, the preterm cause-specific neo-natal mortality rate in Europe is 1.5 per 1000 births compared with almost 10 per 1000 births in Africa.

The Kangaroo Mother Care intervention was introduced in 1978 by Prof. Edgar Rey in Colombia. This original model of delivering KMC has been greatly modified.