News Story

Church to Help Malawi Improve Newborn Mortality Rating  

The country is ranked 10th in the world for high infant mortality rates

Studies show that up to 10% of all newborns require some assistance to begin breathing. Neonatal Resuscitation Training (NRT) is a project that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, through its LDS Charities arm, promotes worldwide.

In NRT projects, medical personnel are sent to many countries around the world where they hold trainings and seminars with those who are involved in the delivery of infants. Malawi became the latest country to benefit from this project, with training held between 27th July to 1st August. Initially, seven trainers received instruction, followed by the training of an additional 100 doctors and nurses from various hospitals across the country. Those who were trained are expected to then return to their hospitals and clinics and teach others. The goal is to lower the mortality rate of newborns in Malawi. At the conclusion of the seminar, medical equipment was donated to the hospitals and clinics that were represented.

Brother Allen and Sister Karen Lyle, the LDS Charities representatives in charge of Malawi and Zambia, led this project. The Lyle's were joined by a medical team from the USA, including Dr. Michael Visik, a pediatrician from Logan Utah and his wife, Liz, along with Dr. George Little, from New Hampshire. The seminar was conducted by Dr. Pilirani Msambati, from the Ministry of Health for Malawi.

During the training, Ms. Fannie Kachale, the Director for Reproductive Health for Malawi spoke to the participants encouraging them to learn these techniques so they can help babies who are born with breathing difficulties, and also so they can teach others the life saving techniques.

Malawi is rated 10th in the world for high infant mortality rates due to breathing problems, as per the World Health Organization. Ms. Kachale said she is looking forward to having reduced neonatal deaths in the near future. Ms. Victoria Shaba, from “Save the Children”, also supported the training.

Many countries in the world have a high mortality rate for babies born, often due to breathing problems. For instance, Kenya has a mortality rate of 55 babies for every 1000 live births. Uganda has a rate of 54 babies for every 1000 live births, and the mortality rate for babies born in Tanzania is about 70 for every 1000 live births.

During the training, Chimwemwe Mwangonde, from the Ministry of Health, gave an outstanding lesson on the “Golden Minute”. This is the optimal time that the medical staff has to resuscitate a baby who is not breathing at the time of birth. He started his lesson with a game to illustrate to the participants how it feels to not breathe. The shortest length of time someone in the class held their breath was 5 seconds and the longest was 1 minute and 20 seconds. That was a simple but very effective introduction to his lesson on the “Golden Minute”.

The days of training were intense. All the doctors and nurses were very involved and engaged because most of the training was hands-on and it was knowledge that was very beneficial to their profession. At the completion of each training session, the doctors and nurses had to pass a written test and a clinical evaluation of the NRT procedures before receiving a certificate of graduation.

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