Judges selected two winners - Regina Obeng from Ghana and India’s Rekha Kashinath Samant - from nominations sent from all over the world but added Otai has a runner up.
The women received their awards at the opening ceremony of 7th International Conference of the Neonatal Nurses at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre on Sunday.
The International Conference of Neonatal Nurses (ICNN) in conjunction with Save the Children, the Council of Neonatal Nurses (COINN) and the Neonatal Nurses Association of Southern Africa (NNASA) were responsible for organising the awards.
“Regina and Rekha were selected over many outstanding candidates for their unwavering leadership and passion for ensuring every newborn has a chance to survive and thrive,” said NNASA President Ruth Davidge.
“Both work in newborn care units in very busy teaching hospitals in urban areas. Even in these facilities, we cannot take good care for granted; it has to be developed and defended by committed professionals.”
Each year 10 000 newborns die every day. Three out of every four newborn deaths occur in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa where there is a critical shortage of skilled health workers – both nurses and doctors.
Work done by the award winners and other neonatal nurses goes a long way in ensuring those already frightening statistics are not heightened.
In India, where more than one million babies die in their first month of life, Samant is a senior staff nurse in the Neonatal ICU at King Edward Medical Hospital and Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College in Mumbai.
She has 20 years experience as a senior staff nurse and is a national trainer in Kangaroo Mother Care.
Obeng is the principal nursing officer and manager of the Neonatal Unit at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana.
In Ghana, 30 out of every 1 000 newborns won’t live past their first month of life.
With 22 years experience in the field, she is a neonatal nursing expert and has been the driving force behind her hospital’s introduction of Kangaroo Mother Care, promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and increased infection control.
“Many of the millions of newborn deaths that occur in Africa and South Asia could be prevented with greater numbers of skilled health professionals,” said Joy Lawn, a Director at Save the Children.
Lawn added: “Nurses like Regina and Rekha illustrate that it is possible to totally rewrite the statistics on newborn deaths with greater investments in neonatal training and basic equipment”.
Despite the fact that nurses provide the majority of care to sick newborns in health facilities, there are very few nurses like Samant, Obeng, Otai who dedicate themselves to newborn care, which is a major challenge for neonatal units worldwide.
There is an acute shortage of neonatal nurses internationally and particular in resource-limited countries where there is a desperate need for accredited training in advanced neonatal nursing practice.
This award was also created to highlight the fact that skilled nursing care is critical to the reduction of the global neonatal death toll of 3.6 million newborns a year. - BuaNews