« Une lueur d’espoir ». Un bébé pesant séulement 800 grammes a été amené dans notre maternité. La petite fille a connu des débuts difficiles, mais a pu rentrer chez elle en bonne santé après plus d’un mois de soins intensifs. Sa mère lui a donné un nom spécial : Mikaela, en honneur de notre pédiatre Michael.  © MSF
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Mikaela, the 800g baby who survived being born amidst conflict

On Monday, November 27, 2023

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"Little spark of hope". Specifically, 800 grams of weight. By the end of September, mother with a newborn girl arrived in the MSF neonatal care unit in Adré, in the East of Chad. The baby decided to come to world too early. And some may say that in one of the worst places where someone can start their life these days.

East of Chad is currently hosting an estimated 450,000 refugees from war-torn Sudan. Chad, country with the second lowest ranking in the Human Development Index, is hosting people running away from a conflict that started in Sudan in April this year. Conflict where attacks on civilians and healthcare became a norm. One vulnerable community is hosting another particularly vulnerable community here in east of Chad. This is the place where the little girl was born. In a shelter, before she made her way to the hospital.

The weight of 800 grams is way below the usual weight of a newborn baby. The optimum in Europe is considered around 3 500 grams. Even in much more equipped context, making it possible for a premature born baby to survive with such a low weight would be a challenge. 

 “If there is one point that manifests incredible effort and success of the huge medical team here, it is this girl,” explains Michael Malley, MSF paediatrician. “Keeping an 800 g baby alive means extremely careful attention to detail over a long period of time by motivated people with little specialist experience.”. 

The team had to check the vital signs every 2-3 hours, check the sugar up to every 2 hours and correct when it was low, check the temperature every 2-3 hours and correct it, they gave countless doses of antibiotics, they checked that the feeding tube is safely in place. And on top of that, supported the mother psychologically."

Michael Malley, pédiatre MSF à Adré, Tchad. © MSF
La petite Mikaela avec sa mère. © MSF

Today is 1st of November, and the little girl weights 1 320 grams. Still a little compared to optimum, but she is fit enough to be sent home. It is a big day for everyone in the team. Michael’s mission in Chad is about to end, he is leaving tomorrow. But he paid one last visit to the neonatal unit in the Adré hospital, to make sure that the baby is all right. Few days ago, the mother decided to name her daughter after Michael, grateful for what the team did for her daughter. So, it is Mikaela he is looking at, wrapped in a colourful blanket, surrounded by other mothers with their newborn children in the always busy neonatal unit of the Adré hospital.

Since the beginning of this emergency, MSF assisted 1,043 births in the region. Most of them luckily did not follow such a dramatic path. None of these children came to an easy life. Essentials like safe water, sufficient food, and malaria nets are missing.

Every day, dozens of malnourished children are being treated at the malnutrition ward in the MSF paediatric hospital in Adré. 

Every week, hundreds of mothers receive therapeutic food to treat their less severely malnourished at home at the distribution points organised by MSF. Yet this is not enough and there are still more people than one humanitarian organisation can save. 

Little Mikaela is a spark of hope. For everyone in the MSF teams helping in east of Chad, but also to the refugees who know that their children can received free care when needed. 

As little as 800 grams can weight a lot. And a little spark can light up the night. 

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