Seven hundred babies die each day in Nigeria. That’s 30 deaths an hour. Many of these deaths are preventable, the result of injury, infection or prematurity. This is a tragedy.
In fact, the first 60 seconds after birth are critical to survival as infants gasp for their first breath. This pivotal time period – the “Golden Minute” – is the focus of Physicians for Peace’s latest medical training outreach in Nigeria, where we’ll work alongside local physicians, nurses and midwives to provide Nigerian healthcare teams with the skills to resuscitate at-risk newborns using basic supplies and simple techniques.
“Nigeria is a very family-oriented country, and children hold a special role,” said Dr. Ogu Emejuru, a pediatrician who splits his time between his practice in Chesapeake, Va., and Rivers State, Nigeria, where he serves as Special Assistant to the Governor on Environmental Health. “Every death profoundly affects the community.”
Physicians for Peace last delivered education in Rivers State in 2007. Photo by Stephen Katz.
Emejuru will lead a team of four Physicians for Peace international medical educators from July 7 to July 15 as they collaborate with hospitals and clinics in Rivers State, a diverse region in the southern part of the country that lays claim to rainforests, swamps and rich oil reserves.
Like the rest of Nigeria, Rivers State is also defined by the immense gap between its privileged and impoverished populations, and the widening chasm between services available at private, urban hospitals and public health institutions in both urban and rural settings. By training healthcare teams in Nigeria – and encouraging those team members to share their knowledge with other health workers -- Physicians for Peace aims to address the immediate needs of young families in Rivers State while strengthening the bonds of trust between local providers and patients.
“Many factors influence Nigeria’s high rate of neonatal death, but by focusing our efforts on that first moment of life, we can give teams the specific training they need to make a real difference,” Emejuru explained.
The team includes three nurse educators from Chesapeake Regional Medical Center in southern Virginia: Stacy Lawton, RN, Denise Tarves, RN, and Virginia Stone, RN.
Emejuru, Tarves and Stone have participated in previous Physicians for Peace training efforts in Rivers State aimed at building capabilities among birth attendants; the outreach in July builds on those efforts by introducing Helping Babies Breathe, an award-winning program released by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011 and tailored for underserved areas, where high-tech resources are limited or nonexistent.
This will be the first time the curriculum is presented to teams in Rivers State. The July training also represents Lawton’s first experience with Physicians for Peace – and her first time training healthcare providers outside of the U.S.
“My goal is to have evidence of decreased infant mortality rates in the places we teach HelpingBabies Breathe,” she said. “Ultimately, I think every healthcare provider deserves the chance to be educated and to have the tools to provide the best care possible in their given environment.”
The outreach in Rivers State is made possible through a collaborative partnership between Physicians for Peace and Empowerment Support Initiative, a nonprofit founded and run by Dame Judith Amaechi, the First Lady of Rivers State.
Look for updates from the team through the training on our mission blog.