Baby hats in Tanzania
“We spent around 4 hours trying to resuscitate a baby who had pneumonia and fluid on the lungs. We hooked the baby up to oxygen but were under pressure to turn off the oxygen because the hospital couldn’t afford to keep running the electricity generator”.
Many things in life are simple; humans just make them complicated; this post is a simple anecdote.
Currently a junior doctor, Blanche is used to helping people; celebrating life and witnessing death. A few months ago Blanche went to visit some of her medical colleagues at a hospital in the village of Berega in the mountains of Tanzania, the quote above is hers. When you think of Tanzania, you probably think Africa, then you think hot tropical climate…not hypothermia.
Compassion – is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering
Hypothermia can affect any new born baby in the first 12 hours of life and contributes to other life threatening illnesses, especially if malnourished and born in a harsh environment.
New born babies can’t regulate their own body temperature effectively; this is especially difficult if the babies are premature and malnourished. In the Berega maternity ward babies are usually wrapped in a thin cotton cloth, with a lamp used to generate some sort of heat. Yes, just a lamp; no incubators or heaters or the fancy equipment you would find at Great Ormand Street Hospital.
Speaking with her colleagues in the hospital, Blanche discovered that simple wooly hats would decrease the amount of body heat lost from new born babies at the hospital.
It wasn’t enough to be sad, Blanche felt compassion for the babies and mothers in Berega; so sending 50 knitted hats back to Berega Hospital to keep new born babies warm became the target. When Blanche came back to England from Tanzania she spoke to her GP trainer Dr Dovovan about the sad situation. Blanche faced a little problem; she doesn’t know how to knit! So she thought another good idea would be to mobilise her local community in Guildford, Surrey to get in on the act. Volunteers have knitted little baby hats including Guilford Mother’s Union and Blanche was even interviewed by her local radio station!
Dr Donovan created a website to drive momentum and the aim was to have 50 knitted hats by the end of August. On www.kofia.org.uk, you’ll see that as of 12th August the total hat count stands at 104 hats and 7 blankets!
This all sounds pretty simple, but a lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes, most of all inspiring her local community groups to start knitting hats! Blanche found a simple solution to a life threatening problem which didn’t cost millions of pounds. Check out the website and why not send in your own little hat? There is a tiny baby in Berega waiting.
“What amazed me was that there was something that could be done and my local community took time out to make something for strangers on the other side of the world”. – Dr Blanche Oguti
So with the help of Dr Donovan, the hats will be shipped to Berega. Blanche realised that rather than focusing on all the big problems that are difficult to solve, it was better to inspire others to come together and make a small difference. The hats will help but there needs to be a sustainable way of keeping new born babies warm in Berega, whether it means teaching women in the village to knit themselves, raising money to train more healthcare professionals or more efficient ways of harnessing solar power energy. For this to happen www.Kofia.org.uk needs YOUR ideas; which can be simple!
Photo credits: www.kofia.org.uk
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