AKU's Prof William Macharia, NEST360 Kenya Lead, at the Phase II launch
The Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST360) international alliance has launched Phase 2 of its groundbreaking mission to reduce newborn mortality in sub-Saharan Africa with $65 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), The ELMA Foundation, and generous individual contributions.
“NEST360 is an international alliance of clinical, biomedical, and public health experts from 22 leading institutions and organizations," said NEST360 co-founder Rebecca Richards-Kortum, a bioengineering professor at Rice University. “Improving quality for small and sick newborn care in NEST360-implementing countries and beyond requires a systems-change approach that cuts across all levels of care."
A key player in this life-saving initiative is the Aga Khan University (AKU), appointed as a local recipient of the grant tasked with implementation in Kenya in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, KEMRI Wellcome Trust, Kenya Paediatrics Association and Hatch Technologies. AKU's Professor William Macharia serves as the NEST360 Kenya Lead.
Currently operational in 13 hospitals across ten counties, the NEST360 programme at AKU has successfully installed the NEST bundle of technologies in newborn units, providing vital devices for thermal management, respiratory support, jaundice management, and hydration and drug delivery. Additionally, the programme has conducted extensive training for biomedical and clinical teams, established robust data systems, and actively supported quality improvement activities in all 13 hospitals.
Expressing gratitude for the substantial funding, Professor Macharia remarked, "I am so grateful to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CIFF, and ELMA for working closely with us to develop phase 2 plans and supporting a large chunk of the budget. This is a demonstration of the faith they have in the ability of NEST and our governments to deliver on what would otherwise look like a mission impossible."
The NEST360 programme at AKU extends its impact through comprehensive pre-service and in-service training packages, educating clinicians and biomedical technicians on the utilization, maintenance, and repair of the NEST360 bundle of technologies. The dedicated team at AKU, including Dr George Okello, Country Director responsible for implementation; Dolphine Mochache, Clinical Training Manager; Hannah Mwaniki, Research Associate; and Vincent Ochieng, Engineering Training and Maintenance Manager, plays a pivotal role in ensuring the success of the project.
In addressing the dire global statistics, where an estimated 2.3 million newborns succumb to preventable causes annually, Africa bears the highest burden of mortality rates. An African newborn faces almost 10-times the risk of neonatal death compared to counterparts in Europe or the U.S. The NEST360 mission strategically aligns with the United Nations' 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, particularly targeting SDG 3.2, aiming to limit newborn deaths to no more than 12 per 1000 live births by 2030.
With a target fundraising goal of $90 million, Phase 2 of the NEST360 initiative will expand its reach to five countries, which collectively contribute to nearly 50% of newborn deaths on the continent. The alliance's network will grow to encompass 144 implementing hospitals, with plans for expansion to Ethiopia. In Kenya, further expansion to new sites is envisioned through co-investment with County Governments and other strategic partners.
As the Aga Khan University continues to spearhead this transformative initiative, NEST360 is poised to catalyze a significant reduction in newborn mortality, bringing hope to countless families across sub-Saharan Africa.