Nurses from Nigeria and Vietnam Recognized for Work Saving Newborns

Share Article

Save the Children and the Council of International Neonatal Nurses recognized two international neonatal nurses for their commitment to saving newborn lives in some of the most challenging work environments.

Three hundred neonatal nursing professionals from around the world today recognized two of their colleagues for their commitment to saving newborns in some of the most challenging work environments.

Nigerian nurse Adeyemo Abass Kola and Vietnamese nurse Nguyen Thi Minh Hong were honoured with International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Awards at the opening ceremony of the Ninth International Conference of International Neonatal Nurses (COINN) in Vancouver, Canada.

The awards were presented by Karen New, president of COINN. “These two nurses are brilliant examples of the determination and hard work of so many neonatal nurses around the world,” New said. “We are awed by their steadfastness, sense of purpose, and most of all the hopefulness they bring to daunting work conditions. Their courage to persevere is saving mothers and infants in circumstances where others might have given up.”

Mr. Kola and Mrs. Hong were chosen from among neonatal nurses nominated by their peers and employers in 14 countries. Nominees were rigorously evaluated and the winners chosen by a team of maternal and newborn health experts from Save the Children and COINN, who have sponsored the award since 2009. Previous winners were from Ghana, India, Kenya, and Malawi.

“Mr. Kola and Mrs. Hong have inspired us with their leadership and their passion. If more neonatal nurses were properly supported, trained, and supplied with essential medicines and tools, we could help ensure that every newborn – no matter where – had the chance to survive birth and get a good start on life,” said Carole Kenner, COINN’s chief executive officer.

Globally, 2.7 million babies die during their first month of life and 2.6 million babies are stillborn. Over 98 percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income settings in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. While most of these deaths are preventable, success depends on the availability, skill, and commitment of the professionals who care for sick newborns.

Unfortunately, most neonatal nursing education programs and recognition of neonatal nursing as a career occur in high-income countries, where neonatal deaths are relatively rare. Karen Lasby, president of the Canadian Association of Neonatal Nurses, said, “In low- and middle-income countries, education and careers in neonatal nursing urgently need to be developed, because they are absolutely critical to reducing newborn and preterm deaths. We know that technology alone is not enough. Trained and specialty-specific neonatal nurses will provide the greatest impact.” Lasby said the International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Award "was created to help showcase how skilled nursing care is critical to reduce the global neonatal death toll.”

According to 2015 United Nations estimates, nearly half of child deaths under age 5 occur in the first month of life. The recently adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals include a commitment to reduce neonatal mortality to a rate of 12 or less per 1,000 live births by 2030 and for some countries this requires more than doubling their rate of current progress.

President and CEO of Save the Children Patricia Erb said, “Achieving this ambitious target will require mobilizing all resources, including neonatal nurses and others who provide skilled care at birth. This is especially so in insecure, remote, or inaccessible areas where marginalized or disadvantaged populations live, and places affected by conflict or natural disaster.”

About the Neonatal Nursing Excellence Award Winners

Adeyemo Abass Kola works in the Zamfara state in northern Nigeria, where children face a high risk of death from lead poisoning as a result of unsafe mining practices. Working for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), Mr. Kola and his colleagues provide chelation therapy to counteract the lead poisoning and treat other complications and illnesses such as asphyxia, hypothermia, malnutrition, and malaria. “What really makes me want to do my work more is the innocence of the babies. You see them and you just have to help,” Mr. Kola says.

Given the limited resources for neonatal care within his hospital, Mr. Kola has learned to improvise, finding new ways to provide needed care to newborns and their mothers. He hopes to become a specialized neonatal intensive care nurse so he can continue improving the quality of care in Zamfara.

Nguyen Thi Minh Hong works in the rural district of Tram Tau, Vietnam, where poor roads, local customs, and language barriers have impeded access to and knowledge of good health practices around birth. Mrs. Hong has worked for the past 34 years, serving a primarily ethnic minority Hmong population. She travels nearly two hours to her clinic each day, providing checkups to mothers and newborns, assisting with deliveries, and conducting family planning consultations.

Mrs. Hong has helped drive a change in cultural beliefs that discourage expecting mothers from visiting health clinics. She has learned the Hmong language, which has increased trust in the nurses and doctors who interact with the patients. As a result, pregnant women are increasingly seeking antenatal care at clinics, and more births are being attended by skilled health workers.

“The work is hard and travel is difficult,” Mrs. Hong says, “But I love this job. When a delivery is done I feel so happy to welcome a new baby. And if the baby is not well, we take care of them and they get healthy after our care and I feel so honored about that.” Mrs. Hong hopes to continue her efforts to encourage the local population to come to the clinics where she and her colleagues can provide better care for mothers and newborns.

About COINN and Save the Children
The Council of International Neonatal Nurses, or COINN, represents nurses who specialize in the care of newborn infants and their families or who have a special interest in this area of nursing. COINN is part of a growing international community of nurses that represents a resource for nurses that want to form a national or local organization, create guidelines for care or professional standards, or want advice on neonatal nursing issues. COINN has sponsored nine international neonatal nursing conferences, with the latest in Vancouver, Canada. As recognized global leaders in neonatal nursing care, COINN is committed to fostering excellence in neonatal nursing, promoting the development of neonatal nursing as a recognized global specialty, high standards of neonatal care, enhancing quality of care for patients and families, decreasing health disparities, and improving healthcare outcomes.

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In 120 countries around the world, we work every day to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. When crisis strikes, and children are most vulnerable, we are always among the first to respond and the last to leave. We ensure children’s unique needs are met and their voices are heard. We deliver lasting results for millions of children, including those hardest to reach. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share.

Media Contacts

John Engels
Director of Communications, Saving Newborn Lives, Save the Children

Katharine Harris
National Senior Manager, Communications, PR & Engagement, Save the Children

Carole Kenner
Chief Executive Officer, COINN
+1-405-684 1476

Mary Kinney, Senior Specialist, Global Evidence & Advocacy, Save the Children

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

John Engels
Save the Children
+1 202.794.1593
Email >
Visit website