Bhutan will be the first country in the region to make use of the EENC course

Health: More than 100 health workers from various parts of the country will be trained on best care for newborns using the Early Essential Newborn Care (EENC) course starting from mid February this year.

The health ministry last week signed an agreement with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF in this regard.

The training, using WHO’s Early Essential Newborn Care (EENC) course, will be conducted in four batches. It will begin from mid February to March at the referral hospitals in Thimphu, Mongar and Gelephu.

Experts from the WHO regional office will be in the country in mid February to introduce the course. They will conduct a national training of trainers involving twelve healthcare providers of diverse backgrounds, including specialists and nurses at the Thimphu referral hospital.

According to health officials, the national trainers will then provide the training to health workers in the western, central and eastern regions until March. The health workers will be from hospitals that together cover over 90 percent of institutional deliveries in the country.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said that despite the huge leap that Bhutan has made in reducing overall child mortality rates over the past decades, newborns remain one of the most vulnerable groups that need urgent attention. “That is why we developed the Bhutan Newborn Action Plan in 2016,” Lyonpo said.

“We know from other countries that a lot of progress can be made with relatively simple interventions that work well in big hospitals as well as in remote areas.”

Lyonpo also said the EENC course serves as an important first step, to make sure everyone gets the basics completely right on how to care for newborn babies in the best possible way.

Bhutan will be the first country in the region to make use of the EENC course, which educates healthcare workers on the vital steps to be taken immediately after birth to minimise preventable newborn illness and deaths, according to UNICEF and WHO. It will have a strong focus on evidence-based best practices such as breastfeeding immediately after birth and keeping the baby warm with skin-to-skin contact.

Officials said that these are two critical lifesaving interventions, especially for preterm babies. In future, it is expected that the course can be organised independently in Bhutan as part of the regular pre-service training and in-service mentoring of health staff in the country.

The UN estimates under-five mortality rate (U5MR) of 32.9 per 1,000 live births for Bhutan as of 2015 against 133.7 in 1990, and the current global average of 43 per 1,000 live births. Newborn mortality rate (death in the first 28 days of life) is currently estimated at 18.3 per 1,000 live births, accounting for more than half of the total U5MR. This is roughly the same as the global average of 19 per 1,000 live births.

Health ministry officials also thanked the various technical working groups consisting of representatives from Thimphu referral hospital, Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan, WHO and UNICEF for fine-tuning and finalising conditions for the course.

Kinga Dema


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