From a Scary Silence to a Joyful Sound

“When I had my firstborn, he cried immediately after birth. I was so worried this time when Dativa did not cry and the nurses didn’t give her to me immediately,” Dativa’s mother, Nancy Japhet of Engoisengiu, Arusha, Tanzania, said.

When Nancy, 30, arrived at the hospital, her contractions were frequent and painful. Nurse Jaine Macha remembers when it all began: “Her water broke at 10:30 a.m. She started to push.” But there was a problem. When the baby finally came out “she did not cry,” Nurse Jaine said.

Although the silence scared the mother, it did not frighten nurse Jaine. She went into action—putting to use newborn resuscitation skills she had learned from Jhpiego on how to help babies who do not breathe after birth. She reached for a penguin-shaped sucker and gently cleared mucus from the baby’s nose. After massaging the newborn’s back, she placed a special mask on the baby’s mouth and pumped air.

Within a minute, the baby girl let out a cry.

“I heard my daughter cry. I was so happy, and relieved. The nurses were also celebrating. We were so overjoyed,” Nancy said.

Thanks to the “Helping Babies Breathe” (HBB) initiative, health care providers handling deliveries in more than 60 percent of all Tanzanian health facilities now have the skills and equipment necessary to assist newborns in surviving asphyxia within the first minute of birth.

“At nursing school, we were taught ways to save lives, but HBB brings in new, simple and very effective techniques. Now we assess the baby as quickly and effectively as possible to minimize any [irreversible] damage,” nurse Jaine said.

Dativa’s family sees nurse Jaine as a hero for saving their baby girl’s life. They have even allocated a small piece of land to her if she wants to grow vegetables—a gesture of heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity to see their daughter grow healthy and strong.