WOMAN OF PASSION: Care packages for new mums

Lucy Kaigutha aims to reduce infant mortality by distributing cardboard boxes. She tells Florence Bett how she happened upon this idea, and what she’s doing about it.

  • Lucy studied public health and international development for her undergraduate and Master’s degrees, graduating from the University of Sheffield, U.K, in January 2012.
  • She spent the next two years selling insurance and furniture online before returning home in September 2014.
  • Lucy was confident she would get get a well-paying job, but all she got was internship, frustration and volunteer work.

 

Out of every 100,000 live births in a year, 362 mothers die giving birth. And out of every 1,000 live births, 39 newborn babies die. Only 58 per cent of women make the recommended four or more antenatal care visits.* “The major causes of the deaths of these babies are hypothermia that causes pneumonia, diarrhoea, neonatal sepsis and malaria,” says Lucy Kaigutha, 32.

Lucy founded Toto Care Box in July last year, to give away carton boxes to mothers in the slums who’ve just given birth. The box and its contents mitigate the risks that contribute to infant mortality. “It comes with 18 essential items that protect the baby in its first 28 days,” she continues. “The box is also a crib for the baby to sleep in for up to three months. Mothers are taught how to use the box correctly during ANCs, and this is an incentive for mums to finish their four ANCs and give birth at a health facility.”

So what’s in the box? “We have a water-proof mattress, a set of baby clothes and a blanket; cotton wool and an antiseptic cream for cord care; Sunlight soap for promoting hand-washing and hygiene; Aqua guard for disinfecting drinking water, and a mosquito net to drape over the box when the baby is sleeping inside.”

Lucy studied public health and international development for her undergraduate and Master’s degrees, graduating from the University of Sheffield, U.K, in January 2012. She spent the next two years selling insurance and furniture online before returning home in September 2014. Lucy was confident she would get get a well-paying job, but all she got was internship, frustration and volunteer work.

“I’d been to West Pokot in 2011 with my school for a two-week international field class and saw this mother in Marachi village – mid 40s, four children and a newborn, absolute poverty – and you could tell she’d not had lunch that day. I wished I could do more for her.” In 2015 Lucy stumbled upon an article on the BBC website about Finnish babies sleeping in cardboard boxes. It was a 75-year-old tradition. Finnish boxes have 111 items. Finland has the lowest infant and maternal mortality in the world. “I thought, Why not come up with a similar box but for mothers and newborn babies in poor and marginalized communities?” Lucy says.

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HER FRIENDS

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