In our Baby Care Program, nurses identify vulnerable infants immediately after birth and provide these babies home-based nursing care for one year. According to the World Health Organization’s statistics, 12% of children in Malawi do not survive to the age of five and approximately 20% of these deaths occur within the first month of life. Because neonatal deaths constitute such a large portion of child deaths, by focusing on newborns we can significantly impact survival rates. Referrals of vulnerable newborns at the two main hospitals in the capitol are made in the first days after birth. These infants include those whose mothers die soon after delivery, premature infants, multiples, and babies with conditions or disabilities which may negatively impact their survival.
Our nurses establish contact with mothers or guardians of these newborns while they are still in the hospital. The nurses then visit these infants regularly in their home communities for the first year of life. In the case of orphaned infants, nurses provide formula and teach and monitor guardians’ ability to reconstitute formula and keep the feeding and storage utensils clean. For breastfed infants, nurses teach the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and support mothers’ breast milk production by providing supplemental food packages to with food instability.
During every visit, nurses monitor the child’s health status, address the mother/guardian’s concerns, and assess the household environment. Nurses review vaccination records as well as record growth and weight. Nurses encourage all family members to protect their own health status by seeking treatment for TB, malaria, and other communicable diseases.