Surviving After 30 Days: Baby Benefits from Newly Established Newborn Care Unit...By Stephen Adombire

Baby Sulemana will forever be in the archives of the Newborn Care Unit (NCU) of Sandema Hospital as the first baby admitted and cared for in the newly created Unit. The NCU provides expert, round-the-clock care for newborn babies who are ill or born prematurely. Preterm babies need special medical care and attention to survive the first 30 days of their life. With the establishment of the NCU, such special care and attention was made possible for Baby Sulemana, which improved her chances of survival. 


The Problem with Caring for Preterm Babies

Prematurity (also preterm) is defined as being born alive before the 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed; low birth weight is weighing less than 2.5kg at birth. Baby Sulemana was born prematurely at the Sandema Hospital on 22nd November 2015 at an estimated 31 weeks of pregnancy and weighed 1.3kg. Like all preterm babies, she was predisposed to developing infection, breathing and feeding difficulties, difficulty with keeping warm, low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia), and possible death.

Before the establishment of the NCU, babies born preterm or with other newborn problems were cared for in the general ward where supportive equipment and the attention needed for such babies was understandably sub-optimal. Sometimes, the newborn had to be referred to the Regional Hospital about 60km away, depending on the problem and other associated complications.

The Interventions-KOICA/UNICEF/GHS Collaboration

The Hospital converted part of a new extension of the Maternity Ward constructed by the Builsa North District Assembly for its NCU. The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) through UNICEF provided equipment for the stocking of the Unit, and training of some staff on newborn care. The Unit has equipment such as radiant warmer, incubators, oxygen concentrators, baby warmer, and phototherapy light among others.

Baby Sulemana was transferred from the general Maternity Ward to the NCU on 26th November, 2015, making her the first admission to the Unit. At the NCU, she received care that centered on close monitoring and observation, regular attention to breastfeeding supported with expressed breast milk, maintaining good hygiene, keeping her warm, and kangaroo mother care (skin-to-skin contact with Mother).  The mother, Madam Sulemana, also received education on how to care for the baby at home.

The Success

 After 28 days in the NCU and at 32 days old, not only was baby Sulemana alive but weighed 1.9kg. She was discharged and scheduled for regular review. Madam Sulemana expressed her appreciation to the NCU staff for the care and support she received for her baby. “I was afraid that my baby would die because it was not time for her to be born. If we had been referred to the Regional Hospital in Bolga, it would have been difficult for us. We are grateful for the facility. May God bless the nurses for the care we received…Now I even feel I can deliver again”, Madam Sulemana said amid laughter from her and her husband.



Moving Beyond Baby Sulemana

Baby Sulemana will only be one among many of the preterm babies and newborns with problems that the Unit will care for. As a District Hospital, the creation of the NCU in Sandema Hospital will not only serve the people of Sandema town but all the surrounding sub-districts in Builsa North District, as well as people from Builsa South, Kassena-Nankana East and West, and West Mamprusi Districts, increasing access to improved newborn care.  As of March 1st 2016, the Unit had admitted and cared for 37 babies (9 cases referred from the sub-districts) with newborn problems of prematurity (41%), neonatal asphyxia (11%), sepsis (35%), neonatal jaundice (5%) and other problems (8%).


The Challenges

 The new Unit is not without challenges. The staffing and their skills could be improved with training. Erratic power supply interrupts the operation of gadgets that rely on electricity, contributing to high cost of running the Unit. The Unit needs additional equipment such as pulse oximeter, overhead lamp, a computer, an electronic foetal monitor, gowns for mothers of babies on admission and visitors, and washrooms for staff.


Despite the challenges, the Unit has come to stay and help more babies survive. Hopefully, the Unit will continue to contribute to helping some of the human family’s most defenseless members – babies - thrive.



“Enabling infants to survive and thrive is an imperative for building the future we want” (Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, Born Too Soon Report, 2012).






•           KOICA/UNICEF

•           Builsa North District Assembly

•           Regional Health Directorate, Upper East Region

•           District Health Directorate, Builsa North District

•           Sandema Hospital Management

•           Staff of NCU/Maternity Ward

•           Family of Baby Sulemana





For further inquiries, please contact:

Stephen Adombire, GHS-Sandema Hospital
Tel: +233 54 110 7821; Email: