Rwandan twins born at 24 weeks (approximately 5 months) in July this year at King Faisal Hospital Kigali have managed to defy the odds to become the first babies in the country to survive having been born so premature.
The twins were born with very low weight: the boy had about 660 grammes while the girl had 620 grammes.
Medical doctors say that the normal weight of a newborn baby born under normal circumstances ranges between 2600 grammes (2.6 kg) and 4500 grammes (4.5kg)
According to medics, the premature delivery was caused by a condition of high blood pressure that their mother developed during pregnancy.
After delivery, medics at the hospital referred the babies to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where they have been taken care of since the end of July, and now, almost three and a half months down the road, the little ones have responded well to treatment and they are soon going to be discharged.
Currently, the male baby has 2 kilograms and 90 grammes, and the female has one kilogram and 500 grams and they are learning to breastfeed normally.
Dr Edgar Kalimba, a Pediatrician who is also the Director-General of the Hospital said in an interview with media that in Rwanda, there are about 3000 cases of children being born prematurely every month.
He said 20 out of every 1000 prematurely born babies in Rwanda don’t survive.
“Most of the babies that are born with over 64 weeks (7 months) survive. However, going down to those born when they are less than 28 weeks, the chances reduce,” he said.
According to Kalimba, King Faisal Hospital started the Services of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit about 15 years ago and, so far, it has treated over 2000 children, 70 per cent of whom cases of premature births, while others are victims of other neonatal complications.
Kalimba said that more than 90 per cent of the prematurely born babies received in their NICU department recover and are discharged.
“We see the results of our work. Children that were born prematurely in our hospital that are growing up, and are smart even in their school studies,” he said.
Peace Mutesi, the mother of the twins said it was a difficult situation for her and her husband as they did not know that such things happen.
She thanked the medics, and above all God who is making the recovery process possible
“I thank God who was with us. He (God) has used the medics to do a lot for us in the form of taking care of the children and treating them. The medics have done what they could do as humans, but life comes from God,” she said.
Felix Ntaganira the father of the twins said he did not believe they could survive.
“I didn’t see their chance of living, but now I have believed that it is possible based on how things are,” he said.
Dr John Baptist Nkuranga, a Pediatrician at KFH specialising in neonatology (treating prematurely born children), said that premature deliveries are mostly caused by the rise in blood pressure during pregnancy.
Other causes include malnutrition among mothers; sicknesses like malaria, infections and diseases that affect the reproductive system.
According to Dr. Nkuranga, cases of defects in the nature of a woman’s womb can also cause premature deliveries.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation), and this number is rising.
Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age, responsible for approximately 1 million deaths in 2015.
WHO also says that three-quarters of these deaths could be prevented with current, cost-effective interventions.