Helping Babies Breathe in Niger

October 3, 2017 • Niger
Cindy Uttley is a Samaritan’s Purse community health advisor.

I recently had an opportunity to visit Niger and train nurses and physicians in Helping Babies Breathe, which focuses on newborn resuscitation. It was a privilege to lead participants through the skills necessary to help every baby breathe within the first minute of life.

Cindy Uttley, right, with nurse Nadege and translator Harouna.

Cindy Uttley, right, with nurse Nadege and translator Harouna.

In step with the Ministry of Health’s protocols for essential newborn care, the training was well-received. As part of a Samaritan’s Purse maternal and child health project in the outlying areas of Banibangou and Bussa, two physicians were selected to participate based on their level of responsibility. Each of these physicians is based at an integrated health center and supports 4-14 small clinics and a staff of nurses and health officers. These small clinics average 30-60 births every month.

During the three days, we trained more than 18 participants, including the heads of integrated health centers, health officers, and nurses with advanced training and experience. They completed their hands-on training and demonstrated proficiency and basic teaching techniques, and also committed to train the additional 85 health staff of the integrated health centers within their responsibility.

I had the welcome assistance of a translator to overcome the language barrier, and the additional support of my Cameroonian colleague, Esther Gwan, who is a Samaritan’s Purse health technical advisor and supports our health projects across the world. She is fluent in French and is also a physician, so she was able to augment the translator’s interpretation of my teaching.

A Life-Saving Impact

Niger has the highest birth rate in the world. Coupled with one of the lowest rates of births attended by skilled health staff, the country also has a high rate of newborn deaths.

Working in Niger is challenging. Niger is a predominantly Muslim nation with less than 1% evangelical Christians. All the training participants were male and each one was Muslim. For most of them, this was the first time they had ever met or spent any time around Christians, let alone be taught by a woman.

The first morning of the training I sought permission to pray and ask for God’s blessing on our time together. Everyone agreed that this was appropriate, and I kept the prayer short and sweet, to be sure I did not cause offense. After I finished praying, I was told that my prayer was too short!

The Christians on our Samaritan’s Purse staff in Niger know what it means to live out their faith in an unsympathetic environment. Their care and friendliness toward the Muslim participants was palpable and went a long way in breaking down barriers.

By the end of the course, we had reached a point of mutual respect and regard. Each handshake I received as I presented certificates was warm and accompanied by a sincere smile.

This training was the first time several participants had ever used an infant suction device or a ventilation bag and mask. The participants caught the vision for saving newborn lives and it was exciting to sense their increasing enthusiasm as the course progressed.

I look forward to future reports as they train additional health staff and as newborn lives are saved. In fact, after the training, I received an exciting email from the nutrition program manager which reported that one of the participants used his training to resuscitate a newborn.

This report indicates the nurse had the confidence to use his new skills! A life was saved, the nurse is empowered, and trust has increased between the health district and Samaritan’s Purse.

I believe God was honored and glorified by the events of this training. I pray many lives are saved and many people in Niger are reached for Christ.

Care for Mothers and Babies Tragically, hundreds of young mothers and thousands of newborns die every day from preventable causes. Your gift can help Samaritan’s Purse reduce the mortality rates of women and their young children by improving obstetric care, teaching essential nutrition practices, and increasing access to quality healthcare.

Prenatal & Maternity Care 013717
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