The Blanket That Saved Chipego
LUSAKA, Zambia – When 2-week-old Chipego Mwansokola cries out, his mother, Dyna Njaluka, rises from her seat on the doorstep and enters the tiny mud and thatch house to comfort her baby. He quiets down quickly as she cradles him in her arms, wrapped in a knitted red and black blanket.
“This is the blanket that saved Chipego from the cold,” Dyna says, and goes on to tell his birth story.
“I had just delivered at home, alone; and there was no one to help me. The baby and I were lying on the ground feeling weak and helpless. I was worried [because] there was no one to cut the umbilical cord and cover my baby to keep him warm. I tried to shout for help.”
Dyna’s mother and a friend came, then her husband Kenneth. He rushed the baby to the health center wrapped in a chitenge, a thin piece of fabric women wear around their waist or use to strap a baby on their back.
At the health center, little Chipego received the care he needed. His father brought him home wrapped in the warm knitted blanket.
Kenneth says before his son was born, he had been trying for months to raise the money to buy clothes and blankets for the baby, but he couldn’t save enough. He makes about $15 a month selling charcoal and working as a day laborer. It’s hardly enough to feed his family.
Chipego is the third child; he has two older sisters. The family lives in Chisebe village, about 9 miles from the nearest paved road and 28 miles south of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.
Healthy mothers and children
Chipego and his mother were fortunate. Mothers who give birth without a skilled birth attendant are at greater risk of birth complications and death, as are their children. The greatest risk is within the 24 to 48 hours after delivery.
"I could have not afforded to buy such a blanket for my son if you (World Vision) did not give it to me," says Dyna.
Children who are kept warm, begin breastfeeding within an hour of birth, and are protected from infections are more likely to thrive.
But not all women are aware of what they and their babies need for healthy pregnancy and delivery. As an incentive for expectant mothers in Zambia to come to rural health centers, volunteer birth attendants decided to give them blankets.
“We felt that when mothers hear that the health centers are giving blankets, they would be encouraged to visit the center, and with time, [we could] break the trend of delivering in homes,” says Ades Zulu, a traditional birth attendant.
World Vision supplied the blanket for Chipego and many others who’ve visited the health center.
Written by Collins Kaumba