Saving newborn babies in remote areas of Bangladesh

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On March 7, when her baby developed a rash and fever, she rushed him to Rangamati General Hospital, and he was admitted to SCANU. A diagnosis of neonatal sepsis was made quickly, and after five days of treatment he was well enough to be discharged from hospital.

“We received excellent service from such a well-equipped and clean establishment,” said Poheli.

Consultant pediatrician Dr. Md. Abdul Hai recalled the situation in the hospital before SCANU. “We used to refer these cases to city hospitals, which is inconvenient for poor families who live in remote places,” he said. “We are very happy to have this facility in our hospital now – it really means a lot.”

Improving health care infrastructure for newborns

Ten years ago, many hospitals in Bangladesh did not have adequate facilities to care for sick newborns. Critically ill babies were cared for in regular pediatric wards. But without proper safety procedures, the number of fatal cases was high.

Since 2011, UNICEF has been supporting the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to develop standard operating procedures while implementing a generic layout design for SCANUs in a growing number of health facilities.

During the pilot phase, UNICEF helped set up SCANU models in six hospitals and provided essential neonatal care equipment such as oxygen concentrators, flow meters, radiant warmers, phototherapy machines , pulse oximeters and resuscitators.

By 2021, SCANUs had been established in 37 secondary and tertiary level hospitals covering 34 districts. In 15 additional districts, with technical support from UNICEF, the government has replicated the SCANU model using national resources.

“UNICEF has procured and provided all the necessary equipment to establish these 37 SCANUs in Bangladesh and continues to provide maintenance services to these facilities to ensure uninterrupted services for newborns,” said Dr Shamina Sharmin, Health Specialist, UNICEF Bangladesh.

The UNICEF Supply Catalog offers a wide range of specialized medical equipment for the care of newborns and children. UNICEF helps countries source hospital furniture and equipment, consumables and high-tech tools to improve services in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

“All SCANU medical equipment should function properly in low-resource environments. Wherever possible, the devices are equipped with battery backup and can operate without the need for an external supply of oxygen or medical air. said Abdallah Makhlof, Chief of the Health Technology Center in UNICEF’s Supply Division.

An assessment of 200 health facilities in Bangladesh found that 70% lacked adequate oxygen infrastructure and essential oxygen equipment to treat COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 cases. In response, UNICEF worked with the government to install an oxygen pipeline to all SCANU beds with an additional supply of oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters.


This article originally appeared in the 2021 Annual Procurement Report


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