The Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) system is an alternative method to cater for premature babies in health facilities where incubator care is inadequate.
The practice, which is similar to the way mother kangaroos carry their babies in a pouch was pioneered as a home care system for premature infants in Bogota, Colombia, in 1979.
The KMC concept involves premature babies being carried, usually by the mother, with skin-to-skin contact between her breasts. The mother ties a cloth around it, while the baby pops its head above the mother's chest like a baby kangaroo.
According to experts, the KMC has proven to be a powerful method in promoting the health and well-being of infants born pre-term because of the effective thermal (temperature) control, breastfeeding and bounding between the mother and the new-born.
The Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (retd ), in an address read on his behalf at the launch of the KMC concept for the northern sector of the country in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region, advised nursing mothers to adopt the concept to promote the health of premature babies.
He noted that babies receiving KMC experience an average shorter stay in hospital compared to those with conventional care, adding that babies have fewer infections and gain weight more quickly.
According the Health Minister, evidence from researchers and scientists indicate that good quality care interventions for low birth weight infants could reduce neonatal mortality in low income countries like Ghana, and urged nursing mothers to embrace the system and contribute to its success.
While acknowledging the support of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and all the hardworking staff and managers of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) for ensuring the introduction of the KMC concept, the minister urged UNICEF and other development partners to assist the GHS to have the full complement of equipment and training, particularly in maternal health care, new-born baby resuscitation and the establishment of neonatal units towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals Four.
Dr Gloria Quansah Asare, acting Director, Family Health Unit of the GHS, who deputised for the Director-General of the GHS said the introduction of the KMC concept was to complement other strategies such as improved ante-natal care, intermittent presumptive treatment, use of bednets, appropriate nutrition and supplementation, skilled delivery, as well as early initiation of breastfeeding and stabilisation of new-borns.
"Although it is likely to reduce the need for long periods of incubator care, it does not mean that we will do way with incubators and other technology in our referral facilities,” she explained.
The Deputy Upper East Regional Minister, Mrs Agnes Asangalisa Chigabatia, announced that the region had been ranked the best in the country in terms of baby-friendly facilities, adding that the number of baby-friendly facilities had increased from five in 2006 to 58 in 2007.
She also said exclusive breastfeeding rate went up from 0.5 per cent in 1998 to 93 per cent in 2007.
She reiterated the call on nursing mothers to embrace the KMC concept to ensure its success.
The Regional Director of Health Services, Dr John Koku Awoonor- Williams, said the high rate of new-born deaths in the northern part of Ghana was absolutely unacceptable and that the introduction of the KMC concept opened a great opportunity for all to avert neonatal deaths even without sophisticated technology.