Recently having spent time in Soroti, Uganda, where we’ve installed our first infant body warmers
in the country at the Teso Safe Motherhood Project (TSMP), 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. 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 at TSMP 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, infant hypothermia can eventually lead to many other health conditions, including low IQ, lack of proper organ development, and other long-term disabilities. The staff found that the baby was not able to breastfeed properly either, something they correlated with her lack of warmth. Despite facing a broad range of developmental challenges, among which includes an incredibly high unemployment rate and rampant malaria, the passionate and dedicated team at TSMP has continued to provide unique solutions and quality care to its growing community. I found their deep commitment inspiring and hope that through increased awareness and innovative methods like the Embrace infant body warmer, infant hypothermia will no longer be left unrecognized and untreated around the world.
India Program Director, Embrace