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Preventing infection to protect babies

Many think of diseases such as malaria or tuberculosis as some of the biggest threats to children’s health. However in very remote areas, something as basic as an infection can be just as great a risk to a newborn child. With Partnering to Save Lives, CARE is working to save the lives of mothers and babies by ensuring the midwives who support the first moments of a baby’s life have the skills they need to prevent newborns succumbing to preventable infections.

Sin Thol, 53, is a midwife working in the remote Cambodian province of Ratanak Kiri. With four children of her own, for the past seven years she has assisted women in the Lumphat health centre with delivering their babies. Thol says she used to encounter many challenges: they did not have enough delivery kits and had no procedures for disposing of medical waste. Clients at the health centre would often develop infections, which can be harmful for both mothers and their newborns.

CARE is supporting the health centre to change by providing both equipment and knowledge to address these challenges. CARE coordinates regular meetings for midwives in the area which allow them to share their knowledge, discuss what challenges they encounter and identify what additional learning would help them to do their jobs better. This group then receives training on key clinical skills.

It is this training which has made a real different for midwives such as Thol. “The most useful thing I have learned from CARE is about infection control. The training has helped me to understand how to properly prepare medical equipment by sterilising this well.” The topics covered in this training may seems basic to some – such as the importance of using sterilised equipment for tasks such as cutting the umbilical cord – but can have a big impact on the chances of a baby contracting an infection.

Thol speaks about how this new understanding has helped midwives to improve how the health centre operates. “I have been able to apply these new skills in our health centre,” she says. “Now we have a daily routine for preparing medical materials for sterilisation so that we always have clean equipment to use for deliveries. I use two pairs of gloves – one for assisting with the delivery and one for cutting the umbilical cord. I have started keeping medical waste differently so that contaminated materials are kept separately and will not cause infection.”

As well as training, CARE has provided equipment so that midwives have the tools to put these new skills to use—such as the coloured bins Thol uses to separate different kinds of medical waste. Thanks to CARE the health centre now has an autoclave so that staff are able to sterilise their equipment to a high medical standard. Supportive visits from trainers ensure staff are comfortable with using these in practice.

Thol is happy about the changes she has seen in the health centre: “We now have enough delivery kits and different waste containers are available.” She says this has had an impact on women coming to the health centre for delivery. “Before women seldom came to the health centre to have their babies. Now the community knows that good quality services are available at Lumphat health centre and more pregnant women are coming here. I hope that we are able to continue to improve the quality of our work further in the future.”

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