Field Updates

The Golden Minute: Nurse Usman Hussein’s Vital Role in Neonatal Care

Story by Wesley Koskei

 

In the delivery room of Dupti General Hospital in Afar, Ethiopia, Nurse Usman Hussein cradles a 900-gram newborn —barely heavier than a morning coffee mug yet holding the fragile promise of life. In Ethiopia, premature birth is the leading cause of neonatal deaths and complications. The Afar region, where the hospital is located, has some of the highest rates of child death in the world.

 

The Golden Minute

At the neonatal intensive care unit, Usman and his team focus on helping premature babies gain weight and avoid infections. The first minute after birth, known as the “golden minute,” is crucial. Proper support during this time significantly increases the baby’s chances of survival. However, caring for such fragile lives requires highly skilled medical workers and specialized equipment.

Dupti General Hospital is the only referral hospital- in a region of about 1 million people- and serves about 350,000 people, handling nearly 200 births monthly. In Ethiopia, many neonatal deaths result from prematurity and inadequate antenatal care due to limited access to primary health services, especially in rural areas.

 

A Need for Skilled Medical Workers

“Training nurses like us is a big contributor to increasing the survival rates for babies who often develop complications in their first 28 days.” Usman emphasizes.

Experienced nurses ensure that premature babies have better survival chances. These trained professionals are the first to witness the newborns’ early milestones, like the first sneeze—a small but significant victory in a region with some of the highest child mortality rates in Africa and the world.

 

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) presents daily challenges, but dedicated nurses like Usman provide essential newborn care, protecting vulnerable babies from infections and supporting their early development. These nurses are crucial in a region where, according to the UN, 75% of neonatal deaths occur within the first week of life, a significantly higher infant mortality rate compared to high-income countries.

Nurse Usman caring for newborn. Amref Health Africa Genaye Eshetu

Amref Health Africa’s Support

Through Amref Health Africa’s support, Dupti General Hospital has constructed and opened the region’s first NICU. Usman and other nurses in the neonatal unit have received specialized training on working in the ICU for newborns, supporting children, and treating them.

Every fragile bundle represents a life worth saving. With your help we can provide support to more nurses to equip them with the skills to improve survival rates for the most vulnerable newborns.