Health for All the Small

January 1, 2015
Goma, DRC
  • Cindy McWhorter and Elysee Samvura
  • Jean Armas
Nurse Elysee Samvura (Photo by Jean Armas)

Today in the neonatal unit at HEAL Africa Hospital in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo nurse Elysee Samvura busily enters her data into an iPad mini and with a push of a button synchronizes the information to a cloud-based software. “That was easy,” she says and then quickly returns to her students who are nurses from surrounding hospitals here to learn the essentials of newborn care from their Congolese colleagues. There were two sets of twins born last night and Elysee and her trainees are busy caring for them. Another child has a congenital anomaly. A third child rests under a blue phototherapy unit. Elysee looks up and says that she likes the music that was purchased for her iPad—Johnny Cash.

Training by Nurse Elysee for Neonatal Nurses (Photo by Cindy McWhorter)

Of all the children who die before their 5th birthdays, 41% are babies. Global Strategies is working to change this statistic by investing in local nurses and providing them with the material and support to conduct an intensive training course. Unconvinced by “quick fixes” to address newborn mortality, we are taking the opposite approach with the Congolese-led nursing program. Nurses from surrounding hospitals receive a 3 month training course at HEAL Africa working shoulder to shoulder with nurses Elysee, Muka, Nadine and Judith. The project is under the watchful supervision of Dr. Eulalie Vindu who monitors the work in between seeing patients at the Children’s AIDS Program. Elysee tells us that she has been with her students when babies arrive and need urgent resuscitation and has observed and corrected their technique. After three months of immersion learning the nurses return to their sites confident and ready to apply their knowledge.

When the first class of graduates finished the program, they were presented not only with a certificate, but also with an ambu-bag—the life-saving tool that nurses around the world use to deliver the first breaths to babies who are not breathing. Dr. Luc Malemo addressed the graduates, telling them, “The riches of Congo are not in the ground. This education is the real diamond.” Global Strategies DRC Program Manager Dr. Givano Kashemwa was also present to congratulate the graduates. Based in South Kivu he knows that the graduation is only the beginning. He provides Dr. Vindu and Elysee with their aggregated data from the daily iPad synchronizations. They smile as they see that the mortality rate remains far below the national average. “Maybe we should look at the jaundice rate too?” Elysee adds. “If we see that jaundice is a problem, we can advocate for better phototherapy.”

Cindy McWhorter, Director of International Programs for Global Strategies pulls up her computer. In addition to collecting data in the nursery, she is also learning about the nursing students who have been trained. She provided Elysee with a digital survey and questions to get a better sense of the people behind the project. They are open-ended questions that are meant to inspire free responses. One of the questions asks, “Do you have a personal motto that motivates you?” We end this field-update with their responses.

                        “The theory comes from practice”

                        “Keep all children alive”

                        “Hand in hand, health for all”

                        “Health for all the small”

Our care unit now has tools for monitoring newborn respiratory distress. And our care, maternity and operating rooms all have phototherapy lamps that help prevent neonatal hypothermia.
Manene NAKASHINGA Agnes, Senior Neonatal ICU Nurse at Panzi General Hospital

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