Recently having spent time in Soroti, Uganda, where we’ve installed our first infant warmers in the country, I witnessed first-hand the challenges surrounding the management of hypothermia, an extremely misunderstood illness. Hypothermia is defined as having a body temperature of less than 36.5 degrees Celsius; being in a room temperature climate to a hypothermic infant feels similar to an adult being in freezing cold water.
The purpose of the visit was to implement a partnership with the Teso Safe Motherhood Project (TSMP), generate awareness regarding the risks of hypothermia, and to discuss suitable methods for managing and treating such a dangerously unrecognized illness, including using our infant warmers.
Only after speaking with the staff at TSMP, a clinic that provides health care to the most vulnerable populations in the region, did the challenges specific to this setting become apparent. There were no working incubators or radiant warmers in the area, and management of hypothermia often meant resorting to the use of hot water bottles or charcoals.
One morning, a full-term yet low-birth-weight baby girl, weighing only 1.9 kgs (or around 4 lbs), was born with malaria. Swaddled in cloth and placed snuggly next to her mother, one would think the baby was sufficiently warm. However, the staff was shocked to find her to be hypothermic at 35 degrees Celsius (or 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and several degrees below what is considered a normal body temperature). Malaria, coupled with low-birth-weight, immediately made the baby susceptible to hypothermia, thereby inhibiting her growth at the onset of her development. Furthermore, lack of hypothermia management can eventually lead to many other health conditions, including low IQ, lack of proper organ development, and long-term-disability. The staff found that the baby was not able to breastfeed properly either, something they correlated with her lack of warmth. Soon after providing warmth through the infant warmer, the baby was able to breastfeed; over the course of the next few days, she began to gain weight and grow as a result of her regular feedings and temperature stability.
The passionate and dedicated team at TSMP has worked to provide unique solutions and quality care to its constituents — most notably, it has increased the use of family planning services by 40 times through innovative community involvement methods. Despite facing a broad range of developmental challenges, among which includes an incredibly high unemployment rate and rampant malaria, they have continued to impact their growing community, including internally displaced persons (IDPs) who live in grass-thatched huts in some few remaining camps and in makeshift villages in the rural areas surrounding the clinic. I found their deep commitment inspiring and hope that through increased awareness and innovative methods like the Embrace warmer, hypothermia will no longer be left unrecognized and untreated around the world.
India Programs Director, Embrace