It’s June and my stay in southern Afghanistan is almost over. Since my last post a lot of things have changed. Our newborn intensive care unit (NICU) has moved into a new building and the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) is almost ready. The new rooms are huge improvements. Now you have enough space for the round trolley between the beds, we have more beds so that we don’t have to put more than one patient per bed and it's brighter than before.
Shortly before the movement, we decided to embellish the room with few drawings on the wall, so it is not a cold, white room. We thought it would be an easy task but there were some bureaucratic obstacles. Finally Amal, my Canadian colleague who has left by now, and I had motivated a few people to help us paint on the weekend and now with flowers, an elephant and a giraffe on the wall makes the NICU probably the friendliest ward of the whole hospital.
While moving in our new NICU, we also started a kangaroo mother care program (KMC). Some of you know the "kangarooing" that we practice in many western hospitals in neonatal wards, where mothers (or fathers) have their premature baby on the chest for one or several hours. In our KMC program, the mothers keep the child on their chest 24 hours a day, unwinding only for shower break or for diaper changes.
Right now, we are still so to speak in an "experimental mode" and there are only a few mothers at the same time, but the first impressions are very good. However, we also noticed once after my nursing colleague left the project and no replacement has arrived yet, that without a female nurse who pushes this program it will not work properly.
Here, men cannot help the mothers to wrap the babies on them for cultural reasons. The KMC program is extremely beneficial for premature babies who are not seriously ill, but would otherwise rely on an incubator. But until the program is running well, there is still a lot of work to be done.
"A giraffe on the wall makes the NICU probably the friendliest ward of the whole hospital."
At the end of June I will be leaving this place and this will be my last blog post. It was an interesting time full of good and bad experiences and I hope that I could make a difference in the time that I spent here.
But I worry about the future of the people of Helmand. There is so much missing here. At the moment it seems extremely uncertain if there will be peace anytime in the next few years. But without peace, development in this region is almost impossible.