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A proud moment in the nation’s history was achieved today when nurse Anila Ali Bardai of the Aga Khan University Hospital received the award for excellence in neonatal nursing at the opening ceremony of the 8th International Conference of the Neonatal Nurses held at the Waterfront Hotel in Belfast, Ireland.
She is the first Pakistani nurse to win this coveted award.
Nurse Christine Sammy from Kenya shared honours with Bardai, while nurse Netasyi Gowero from Malawi was runner up. The Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots joined nurses from around the world in honouring the three neonatal nurses for their commitment to saving mothers and newborns during childbirth in some of the hardest places to work around the world.
The award, organised by Save the Children and the Council of International Neonatal Nurses (COINN), was established in 2009. Previous winners were from Ghana and India.
“Christine, Anila and Netsayi were selected over a number of outstanding candidates for their unwavering leadership and passion for ensuring every newborn has a chance to survive and thrive,” said COINN President Karen New. “All three women work in newborn care units in busy referral hospitals providing care to underserved populations. We can take good care for granted in rich countries but in these settings it has to be developed and defended by committed professionals.”
Nurses provide the majority of care to sick newborns in health facilities; yet there are very few nurses like the 2013 award winners who dedicate themselves to newborn care. Of the three million newborn deaths globally, Pakistan has the third highest number.
As Head Nurse of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at AKUH, Bardai strives to reduce newborn deaths and provides counselling to those parents who have lost babies. She also supports mothers of sick babies, providing guidance on breastfeeding and teaching them how to use Kangaroo Mother Care to keep their babies warm and maintain a proper body temperature. Bardai is an alumna of AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery.
Commenting on the achievement, Dr Keith Cash, Dean, AKU-SONAM said, “This is fantastic recognition for nurses who provide essential care in countries of great need. At SONAM we are committed to educating nurses and midwives who can make such a difference. Our new degree in Midwifery, the first in South Asia, will further support the excellent work done by the neonatal nurses.”
Each year, three million newborns die during the first month of life, and these figures do not include an additional 2.6 million babies who are stillborn. Three out of every four newborn deaths occur in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa where there is a critical shortage of skilled health workers including nurses and doctors. Most newborn deaths are preventable with care which skilled nurses or midwives can provide.
“Many of the millions of newborn deaths that occur in Africa and South Asia could be prevented with greater numbers of skilled health professionals,” said Professor Joy Lawn, Director of MARCH at the London School of Hygiene &Tropical Medicine and a senior health advisor to Save the Children. “Nurses like Christine, Anila and Netasyi show how it is possible to rewrite the statistics on newborn deaths with greater investments in training, basic equipment plus a belief that newborns are not born to die.”
This award was created to highlight the fact that skilled nursing care is critical to the reduction of the global neonatal death toll. These are mostly preventable with care which skilled nurses or midwives can provide. Meeting the global Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 for child survival will be increasingly determined by how well countries can reduce newborn deaths, as now more than 43 per cent of under-five deaths globally occur in the first month of life