November 15

Angel of Bungoma, Gladys

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Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is one of the newborn care programmes actively operated by Save the Children in Kenya for 3 years until now and it is ready to be scaled-up.

Last week, I had a chance to participate in the programme learning meeting for KMC to learn what we have achieved, what was missing, and what can be improved for KMC programme in both Bungoma and Nairobi counties. It was so meaningful and I was happy to be part of it.

On Wednesday, we separated into 4 different groups to visit different facilities in Bungoma county and hear the voices of mothers and health care workers who have living experiences. Our group visited a clinic in Kimili subcounty which is located at slightly remote area from town center.

Here, we were able to talk to Gladys, who is one of the initial members of KMC in bungoma who is also now acting as a trainer to trainers in Nairobi. She was the one who first tried to embed KMC in Bungoma based on learnings from Malawi. Approximately an hour of conversation with her gave me a great feeling of admiration towards her.

She told us the history including how this KMC unit of the clinic has been developed beginning from a single bed at the corner of delivery room to a proper, nice room with 3 beds now. There have been more than a hundred of babies who were born underweight and now to become so healthy that nobody can believe they were born preterm. This outcome has assured the community to accept that this new non-traditional approach works. It is very important to be acknowledged by community since there has been a myth in this region that twins can lead to their father’s death. She also told us of discovering one of twin babies being delivered out of hospital to be killed eventually! – This was caught at the gate, so the mother had to be transferred to the other hospital to avoid her mother-in-law making another attempt.

She pointed out that there is not only medical treatment but also further, bigger problems that need to be resolved to support all these mothers eventually. As a part of the solution, table banking is prepared by getting small contributions from each KMC mother participants. This fund is used to provide urgent financial support for food, milk, etc. This is well maintained for KMC support groups in this sub-county, being held twice a month.

One day, after discharging one of KMC mother who had twin babies, she visited her house to check if things are okay – she does this frequently. And there, she realized that her house is something that can hardly be called a house – with no roof, nothing to eat, nothing to warm up the babies. Realizing that babies are hard to make it there, she brought the mother and babies back to the hospital and fixed the house out of her own pocket. Also, there were some of Save the Children staffs who personally helped the house rebuilding as well. After a few weeks when the house renovation was completed, the mother and babies were discharged again, safely. Obviously, poverty itself is a serious problem in many cases, other than KMC as well. We discussed about possibility of connecting financial aid programme to KMC to provide full support to mothers requiring financial aid as well.

Also, during nurse’s strike which had been a serious issue in the whole Kenya for the recent months, she prepared a small KMC unit at her own house to help those coming to the hospitals to get no support. When we asked if there were any other nurses who also helped her in KMC, she said “Of course they all helped. Otherwise, how can I get all the information of mothers who needed KMC aid?”.

Obviously, the teamwork and strong motivation to contribute to the community are the key factors which led this KMC programme in Kimili subcounty to success. Gladys said “It makes me a special person. It puts me at some place, another level”. I felt so happy to see the look of pride in her face, who is the community leader of KMC.

I do wish to see this look of pride and happiness throughout the Kenya, soon enough.