Kangaroo Mother Care has profound benefits for both mothers and infants: implementation is ramping up in Cameroon

Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is an evidence-based practice that strengthens bonds between mothers and their newborns while working to reduce the unacceptable number of newborn deaths that occur every year in Cameroon. In honour of International Women’s Day, we are celebrating the impact thus far of this first-of-its-kind development impact bond (DIB) focusing on maternal, newborn and child health in Africa.

“We, the staff at Fondation Kangourou du Cameroun, as women, mothers and health professionals, are proud to support all mothers of premature and low birth weight infants. We encourage them to strengthen their emotional bonds with their babies and to take care of themselves, and we encourage fathers to do the same.”

This ground-breaking USD 2.8 million KMC DIB is funding a health practice that will potentially improve the lives of over 2,200 newborns across 10 hospitals in Cameroon by 2021. The practice involves holding the baby skin-to-skin on the mother’s or other caregiver’s chest, ideally feeding them only breastmilk, minimizing time in hospital and maintaining close follow-up of the mother and baby once they return home. Research has shown that KMC offers even greater protection against newborn mortality than traditional incubator care.

Since its launch in February 2019, the Cameroon KMC DIB has:

  • Moved from concept to operations in eight hospitals in Cameroon;
  • Trained over 50 clinicians in quality KMC, and
  • Enrolled 682 infants and their families in the program.

As the program is implemented, it is creating and strengthening the enabling environment for the implementation of quality KMC, including improved hospital infrastructure and capacity. Already there is positive evidence towards achieving quality KMC, including increasing hours of skin-to-skin contact between newborns with mothers or family caregivers, increasing rates of exclusive breastfeeding and appropriate maternal and infant nutrition, and increasing adherence to follow-up visits after early discharge. While there are still gaps and challenges that continued to be addressed, indications point towards a positive future for KMC in Cameroon.

KMC promotes equal participation of all caregivers whenever possible and creates a strong bond with the parents at an early age. KMC helps to break down gender barriers by helping the families and the communities to realize the level of care required and providing ways to share the care, especially involving fathers in the practice of skin to skin care and household duties. Further, the support from hospital staff in training mothers in delivering quality KMC helps to empower women with valuable health and nutrition skills and information for themselves and their newborn infants.

“To be a woman means to be mature, calm and responsible, knowing how to make decisions and remain calm in the face of difficulty. My pride as a woman is the love I have for others, my dignity, my honour, my tolerance, my patience and my self-confidence. Kangaroo Mother Care helped my son to develop well and grow quickly. In the kangaroo position, it’s like he is in my womb, feeling protected and secure.”

The early results of the KMC DIB are promising and are guiding the scale-up of KMC in Cameroon. The KMC DIB is an innovative finance model and this is the first time it has been used to advance efforts to scale up KMC. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the hard work so far and to thank all our wonderful mothers.

Other key notes:

  • The investor, Grand Challenges Canada, is providing the upfront funding required to implement the program; the two outcomes funders, the Government of Cameroon—with US$2 million in financing from the Global Financing Facility—and Nutrition International, will pay the investor only when results are achieved, ensuring an effective and efficient use of development funds
  • Other partners include: The World Bank, the Fondation Kangourou Cameroun, the Kangaroo Foundation Colombia, Social Finance, and MaRS Centre for Impact Investing