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Homemade incubator helps premature babies in slum

From Isha Sesay, CNN
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Homemade incubator
  • In Kenya, around 55 of every 1,000 infants die each year
  • In Nairobi slum, Alice Sibour uses traditional medicines to look after pregnant mothers
  • Sibour has built an incubator using pillows, blankets and hot water
  • She says she's helped about 30 women with premature babies

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- In her small clinic in Nairobi's Mathare slum, Alice Sibour has defied a shortage of medical equipment and come up with an inventive way to care for newborn babies.

As a traditional birth attendant and herbalist, Sibour uses traditional medicines rather than modern drugs to look after mothers-to-be. Many local women, who have little money and limited access to healthcare, rely on her services.

"They depend on us," says Sibour. "Sometimes some of them have no money at all, but they know that if they come to us, we'll assist them."

In a country where around 55 out of every 1,000 infants die every year, Sibour decided to come up with her own solution to care for infants -- an incubator made from scratch.

Using pillows, blankets and hot water, the bed provides the necessary warmth to help a premature baby develop.

A pillow is used as the baby's mattress, and two small containers of hot water are placed underneath. A blanket is put over the baby, and the entire bed is covered with a mosquito net.

"With time the baby will get warmer," says Sibour. "But the water should not be so hot that it could burn the child; it should just generate enough heat for the baby."

I just figured that a premature baby mostly needs warmth. I have helped very many children who are now big children.
--Alice Sibour, traditional birth attendant
  • Nairobi
  • Africa
  • Medicine

Sibour began using her homemade incubator almost 20 years ago.

"I got this idea when I visited a friend of mine who had something similar and I decided to make one, but for protecting premature babies," she says.

"I just figured that a premature baby mostly needs warmth. I have helped very many children who are now big children."

Sibour says she's helped nearly 30 women with premature babies, including Caroline Awuor, who returned to Sibour when she became pregnant for a second time.

"I just come because of the good care that she gives, nothing else," says Awuor. "When someone assists you when you have twins and they're born safely, that is the person you'll prefer."

Sibour's resourcefulness has been a blessing to many, but her work does not come without sacrifice. She doesn't have a permanent work area and is often called out in the middle of the night by a mother in need of help.

"In those moments you're terrified that you may be murdered by thugs," says Sibour. "But when a client calls me to go, I cannot refuse because this is my work."

Despite the dangers and the fact that at times she may be paid nothing at all, Sibour says it's all worth it.

"When a woman gives birth, that to me brings me the greatest joy, because in that I see the love of God."