Broadcasting the Message of Kangaroo Care in Democratic Republic of the Congo

 {Landry Serges-Malaba/MSH}Fallone and her daughter Gracia (right) with Therese, head nurse at Dipeta HospitalLandry Serges-Malaba/MSH

Fallone Ntumba, a radio journalist in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was 24 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to the Dipeta General Referral Hospital with a prematurely ruptured membrane.

After three weeks in the hospital, Ntumba gave birth to a daughter. Baby Gracia weighed only three pounds, and Dipeta Hospital’s incubator had not worked in three years. Like many hospitals in DRC, they lacked the resources to replace or repair it when a part malfunctioned.

“When the head nurse told me the news, I was ready to give up hope,” Ntumba said. “The nearest hospital with an incubator was over 60 miles away and cost $50 per week – out of my family’s reach.”

Fortunately, the USAID-funded, MSH-led Integrated Health Project (IHP) had supported Dipeta Hospital in the Fungurume health zone since 2011. IHP trained hospital staff on managing pregnancy, labor, and newborn complications — including a technique called kangaroo mother care.

Kangaroo mother care uses skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby to help premature babies gain weight. Between October 2015 and May 2016, 16 low-birthweight babies born at Dipeta Hospital survived with the help of kangaroo mother care.

When the maternity team taught Ntumba about kangaroo mother care, she was skeptical at first, but the results spoke for themselves. By the time Gracia was one month old, she weighed 4.5 pounds and could be released from the hospital. At home, Ntumba and her husband took turns practicing kangaroo mother care with Gracia. After another month, she weighed 8 pounds.

“My husband and I were both amazed at Gracia’s progress. As an educated woman living in the 21st century, I never expected that a simple method like kangaroo mother care could save my daughter’s life,” Ntumba said. “I’ve decided to start including messages about these low-cost methods that save lives in my broadcasts on Radio Mukaba, to educate mothers and other members of my community.”