The summer after my first year of medical school, I had an incredible opportunity to work and learn at the Shirati District Hospital in the Mara district of Tanzania. Throughout this experience, I fell in love with the local community and the patients that I cared for. I was able to leave them with a small gift, which was teaching the local staff and students protocol for neonatal care that aims to save infants who are born struggling to breathe. The Helping Babies Breathe Program was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics in response to the World Health Organization’s goal to reduce neonatal mortality in low resource settings. Research has been conducted that shows incredibly promising results that the Helping Babies Breathe protocol works to reduce neonatal mortality when it is properly implemented…but only when it is properly implemented.
While teaching this protocol to the local birth attendants, it became increasingly clear that they did not have access to even the most basic resources that the protocol calls for, including warm, dry blankets, and clean bags and masks to provide life-saving respirations. This lack of necessary resources is what I hope to address with the Shirati Babies Project.