KARACHI - A proud moment in the nation’s history was achieved when Anila Ali Bardai, a nurse of Aga Khan University Hospital, received the Award for Excellence in neonatal nursing, becoming the first Pakistani to receive this award. She won the award at the opening ceremony of the 8th International Conference of the Neonatal Nurses in Ireland. Nurse Christine Sammy from Kenya shared honours with Bardai, while nurse Netasyi Gowero from Malawi was the runner up.

The award giving ceremony was organised by the Save the Children and the Council of International Neonatal Nurses (COINN). Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots joined the nurses in honouring the three neonatal nurses for their commitment for saving mothers and newborn babies in some of the hardest places to work around the world. Previous winners were from Ghana and India. “Anila, Christine and Netsayi were selected over a number of outstanding candidates for their leadership and passion for ensuring every newborn to survive,” said COINN President Karen. Nurses provide care to sick newborns but there are very few nurses, like the 2013 award winners, who dedicate themselves to newborn care. Of the three million newborn deaths globally, Pakistan has the third highest number.

As a head nurse at the AKUH’s intensive care unit, Anila strives to reduce newborn deaths and provides counselling to those parents who have lost babies. She supports mothers of sick babies, providing guidance on breastfeeding and teaching them how to use kangaroo mother care to keep their babies healthy and maintain a proper body temperature. Anila is an alumna of AKUH’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. Commenting on the achievement, Dr Keith Cash from AKUH said, “This is fantastic recognition for nurses who provide essential care in different countries of great need. At AKUH, we are committed to educate nurses and midwives who can make such a difference. Our new degree in Midwifery, the first in South Asia, will further support the excellent work done by the neonatal nurses.”

Each year, three million newborn babies die during the first month, and these figures do not include the additional 2.6 million babies who are stillborn. Three out of every four newborn deaths occur in south Asia and Africa where there is a shortage of health workers. Most newborn deaths are preventable with care which skilled nurses or midwives can provide.

“Nurses like Anila, Christine and Netasyi show how it is possible to rewrite the statistics on newborn deaths with greater investments in training, basic equipment plus a belief that newborns are not born to die,” said Professor Joy Lawn from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This award was created to highlight the fact that nursing care is vital to reduce the neonatal death toll.

 The nursing care is also essential to meet the Millennium Development Goal for child as more than 43 per cent of under-five deaths globally occur in the first month of life.