Medical association trains health workers on reviving newborns

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) says it has trained 100 community health workers on how to revive newborns to stem neonatal and infant mortality rate.

Dr. Chiedozie Achonwa, the NMA Chairman in FCT, made this known on Monday at the training of primary healthcare workers in Abuja.

Achonwa explained that 50 health workers were participating in the training which opened in Abuja, while 50 others had earlier been trained in March.He said that the training was aimed at building the capacity of health workers in Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) of the FCT on how to revive newborns.

The theme of the training was: “Helping Baby’s Breath’’.

Achonwa decried the ratio of 40 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births in the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) and 37 neonatal deaths per 1,000 life birth by 2013.

He attributed the alarming rate to lack of requisite knowledge and skills by health workers on ways to revive newborns that were having difficulties in breathing within the “Golden Minutes’’ of births.

Achonwa identified the golden minute of birth as the first 60 seconds of life after delivery, describing this as very critical in the life of a child,adding that any baby that does not breathe well within the time is likely to die or end up with head injury.

He said that the training was a fulfillment of the association’s commitment toward reducing mortality rate.

The NMA chairman explained that the association is targeting the training of 215 health workers in the next one year, one in each of the 215 PHCs in FCT.“The significance of the training is to build the capacity of health workers at the primary healthcare levels on how to resuscitate newborns.

On daily basis, many women deliver babies in health centres where there are no healthcare workers. In places where you have healthcare workers, there is a need for training and retraining to ensure efficient service delivery.

When you engage in training and retraining of health workers, you will improve their skills and they will be able to save lives of many children,’’ he said.

According to him, the training will help to reduce the infants’ mortality rate in FCT.If the rate is reduced, definitely it is going to affect the national average,’’ he said.

Dr. Matthew Ashikeni, Executive Secretary of the FCT Primary Healthcare Development Board, decried poor indices on neonatal mortality rate in Nigeria when compared to other countries.

Ashikeni, who described the training as apt and imperative, said that it would equip participants with the capacity and skills to keep babies alive at the critical time of birth.

The board secretary commended the efforts of NMA, in partnering with FCT Administration, to boost health indices of newborns and reduce mortality rate.

“ Many babies are born with difficulties in breathing for one reason or the other, and if we are able to institute necessary measures at that critical time, we are going to save many lives.

This training is important and relevant so that at the primary healthcare levels, where we provide services like antenatal and delivery to our mothers, it can be done effectively without any hitch,’’ Ashikeni said.

Birth is a transition from a fluid environment to one where we breathe air. Breathing difficulties are common immediately after birth and during the first few hours of life. In rare cases, a newborn baby may have no or very poor breathing because he has received little or no oxygen due to a problem during labour, delivery, or immediately after birth.

Initially, when a newborn baby is deprived of oxygen, his breaths will become fast and shallow. If the situation continues, he will stop breathing entirely, his heart rate will fall, and he will lose muscle tone. It is possible to revive the newborn baby at this point with simple stimulation and exposure to oxygen. However, if the newborn baby continues to be deprived of oxygen, he will start to gasp deeply, and then he will stop breathing again. His heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tone will continue to drop, and he will die unless he is promptly resuscitated. There is also the risk of brain damage if not enough oxygen reaches the brain. If a newborn baby is not breathing, or has very poor breathing, he must be resuscitated immediately.