Stories From The Field - Bangladesh

How MedGlobal is Helping Babies Breathe in Bangladesh

By Lia Harris, MedGlobal volunteer 

As a general pediatrician, and Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) instructor from Vernon, BC, Canada, I couldn’t help but see a need for newborn resuscitation education when I volunteered with MedGlobal for the first time in the Rohingya refugee camp, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in April, 2018. Only about 50% of pregnant women have access to facilities for deliveries, and the facilities are basic, and poorly-equipped. The neonatal morbidity and mortality is high in the camp. 

I, and several other MedGlobal volunteers took the Helping Babies Breathe Master Trainer course, and organized a dedicated mission, in partnership with UNFPA, to provide training to local midwives, physicians, and traditional birth attendants from facilities in and around the Rohingya refugee camp.

Photo: Dr. Lia Harris coaches a group of midwives as they practice
skills during the June 2019 HBB training in Bangladesh.

From June 10 to 18, 2019, six master trainers from USA and Canada taught over 30 skilled birth attendants to be HBB instructors, then observed as they taught over 200 of their colleagues the skills of HBB. Some of the exceptional instructors will be mentored, in collaboration with UNFPA, to become master trainers.

One of the biggest successes of the course was partnering with UNFPA, who continues to mentor and supervise the midwives in the facilities, to be able to provide ongoing support. MedGlobal has donated 36 instructor kits to the UNFPA partner facilities, for continued education, and 65 resuscitation kits for their delivery rooms.

The second big win was having material translated into Bangla, which would not have happened without HBS administration. Save the Children had previously translated the written material, but it was unavailable at the time we were planning the mission. With the help of HBS administration, the Bangla translation has now been uploaded to the HBS International Resources website, available to all! Although our midwife students could theoretically read and speak English, it was much easier for them to work in their native language. 

What would we do differently? We would not have scheduled the course so soon after the Muslim holiday, Eid al Fitr, in a Muslim majority country. Many of the participant organizations indicated they had difficulty enlisting students, because many were on holiday. Unfortunately, after the first few days of training were so successful, participant organizations then sent EXTRA participants for the last few days. We did not want to turn away any participants and managed to teach everyone. Needless to say, it was chaotic, busy, exhausting, and fun!