RUSIZI-Esperance Nyiramuhire would be the happiest mother if she had not given birth to a pre-mature baby who was delivered at seven months contrary to the normal 9 months.
“I was excited as she is my first born, but again, I doubted whether she would survive,” says Nyiramuhire.
Three weeks down the road, Nyiramuhire is relieved that her baby survived, courtesy of the quality services on offer at the Centre for Pre-Mature Babies at Gihundwe Hospital.
“She can breastfeed now and weighs three kilogrammes contrary to the two she was born with,” the excited mother says.
Other women at Gihundwe Hospital, at the special ward for “babies born with deformities”, similarly share their joy with Nyiramuhire.
These are women who have seen medical staff clutch their newly born babies from hands of death.
How it started
The high mortality among babies at the six health centres in Rusizi and the wails of mothers mourning their gone little ones haunted Gihundwe medical staff who sought a solution.
“It is totally unacceptable for a mother to wait for a baby for almost a year, or a life time and at the end, she gets nothing at all. This is what motivated us to create a change, at least for a mother or two, for a start,” says Dr. Celestin Ntawuhungakaje, the Director of the hospital.
The centre was launched in March last year with few equipment and almost no staff.
“We had no incubators, we used to lay pre-mature babies on their mothers’ bare chests and then cover them for warmth. Thank God this miraculously worked,” says an excited Dr. Bernard Usengiyumva, who is now in charge of the now growing department for babies born with deformities.
When the Ministry of Health heard of the move, it deployed three other staff members to permanently work for the baby saving project. It also equipped it with two incubators that have played a key role in rescuing babies’ lives.
In a month, the project saves between 25-50 infants.
Apart from pre-maturity, the facility receives newly born babies with infections, deformities, underweight and other abnormalities.
“In developed countries, a baby born at 22 weeks and weighing 500 grams is supposed to survive. In our case, due to less equipment, we ensure that at least a 28 week baby survives,” says Jeanne Nyirarukundo, the officer in charge of Maternity at Gihundwe Hospital.
“In all my life, I have never given birth normally, hence losing three babies to pre-maturity. Last year, I had a baby who was born pre-maturely but the baby department helped me a lot,” says Helen Nyiransabimana.
Women with high blood pressure and other complications that hinder them from giving birth normally also benefit from the facility.