Saving our children

Training session at Dharwad by neonatologists from California, District 5230.
Training session at Dharwad by neonatologists from California, District 5230.

India accounts for nearly 0.9 million newborn deaths every year, which is 30 per cent of the global ­figure. Premature delivery, birth asphyxia (baby not crying immediately after birth or receiving less oxygen even when inside the mother’s womb) or sepsis (infection during or after delivery), are some causes that account for such deaths.

The infant mortality rate is alarming in ­Maharashtra (28 per 1,000 births), Karnataka (34 per 1,000) and Goa (11 per 1,000); parts of these States fall under RI ­District 3170. To address this issue and provide ­specialised ­training in neonatal care for the doctors and nurses, D 3170 formed a Vocational Training Team (VTT). A global grant under Maternal and Child Health was initiated partnering with D 5230, California. PDG Ganesh Bhat and VTT Counsellor Rtn Jorson Fernandez selected the team of neonatologists and paediatricians to undergo training. Doctors and nurses led by Isabel Good, a ­registered nurse from the US, trained the members at Dharwad, Sirsi, Kolhapur, Sangli, Belgaum and Goa. The team then travelled to the US for advanced training at the Valley Children Hospital and Community Children Hospital. The trip was organised by D 5230.

The home team now shares the knowledge gained by conducting training programmes for paediatricians, neonatologists and nurses working in the neonatal ICU in various hospitals in the district. One such programme ‘NeoApps’ was arranged at the Apple Saraswati Hospital in Kolhapur, where 26 paediatricians and neonatologists were trained in basic and advanced neonatology.

The team also conducted an awareness programme for the public to explain the techniques to prevent ­neonatal diseases. Simple measures like hand ­washing before touching the baby, keeping the babies warm by ­methods such as kangaroo mother care and breast ­feeding, were detailed. The VTT believes that the ­training and awareness will decrease infant mortality and morbidity rates and save many lives.

(The writer is a member of RC Kolhapur Midtown, D 3170 and the Neonatal VTT’s team leader.  Email:

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