By Sharon Atieno

Kenya’s health sector has received a major boost towards reduction of newborn mortality as it is set to benefit from an eight-year USD 68 million funding under the umbrella of Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST).

The Kenyan project launched on Friday 4th October 2019 targets supply of equipment to help preterm babies to breath reffered to as NEST and training of medical personnel to use the equipment and to upscale innovation of equipment suitable for the Kenyan market.

NEST360°, an international organization involved with reduction of newborn mortality in Africa, will develop and deliver a package that will supply a bundle of affordable and robust medical devices to hospitals to help reduce the number of babies who die in the first month of life. The equipment is selected to address preventable illnesses that kill newborns – including breathing difficulties, jaundice, infection, and hypothermia.

Speaking during the official rollout, Center for Public Health and Development (CPHD)’s Executive Director Dr. Steve Adudans said, “We have seen and lived and talked about pre-term babies dying for lack of expertise and equipment. This should not be so. This intervention is a game-changer as we shall not only be supplying equipment but building capacity of the clinical and biomedical workforce. Our goal is to reduce the newborn mortality rate by 12 per 1000 by 2030 as by SDG 3.2.”

Dr. Adudans noted that the initiative was birthed out of intensive research across medical facilities in Kenya. He said among the gaps identified were: lack of technology necessary to provide comprehensive care for newborns in facilities; shortage of both trained clinicians and maintenance technicians to support the implementation of comprehensive neonatal care; inadequate data and finances to introduce, scale, and sustain quality comprehensive newborn care programs, including the ability to measure outcomes linked to performance, and follow up of at risk-newborns to prevent disability; and the uncertain market size and high costs of distribution in Africa which have proven difficult for manufacturers to overcome.

NEST360° will address these gaps through: innovation to optimize a bundle of affordable, effective and sustainable technologies for quality, comprehensive newborn care; educating technicians and clinicians to use and sustain NEST tools and building an ecosystem of student innovators to create the next generation of technologies.

It will also implement learning to develop the tools and metrics that donors and governments can leverage to catalyze continent-wide adoption of NEST; as well as shaping a functioning market to ensure that NEST is distributed and maintained with financing options for public and private hospitals in Africa.

“Equipment designed for high resource settings fails when it is used in African hospitals not only because of inconsistent power, but also because of heat, humidity, dust and lack of spare parts. Moreover, most hospitals in this region simply cannot afford to purchase existing newborn technologies,” added Dr. Adudans.

“To save newborn lives, we need technologies that are effective, affordable, rugged, and easy to maintain. The NEST package addresses all these needs, reducing cost per birth by more than an order of magnitude compared to existing alternatives.”

“Out of every 6 machines procured for use around the world for Africa, only one is easy to maintain and are designed to withstand the heat, the dust, the humidity break down, we experience all year round.  By working with specialists who understand the challenges we face, we have made a major stride in equipping our medical facilities,” he said.

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