Health & Fitness

Women in remote areas use boxes for incubators

Lucy Wambui
Lucy Wambui, the founder of Toto Care Box. PHOTO | CORRESPONDENT 

The emotional blow associated with child loss can lead to a wide range of psychological and physiological problems among parents including depression, anxiety and cognitive.

Women in marginalised and underserved communities are using boxes for incubators to take care of their children since most of them cannot afford to go to health facilities. This helps them reduce maternal and infant mortality rates.

Raising children in shanty areas has seen cases of infant death rates remain high due to poverty, poor sanitation and limited awareness.

Most of the families in these areas suffer due to lack of financial resources while others live in a poor state that hurts the attention required for the newborn.

Kaveyi Musili, one of the women who benefits from Toto Care Box (TCB) explains how she escaped a narrow death while giving birth if it were not for the clinics she attended.


“I visited our local clinic twice and the main hospital twice. I started experiencing labour at midnight we had to walk for three hours with my husband before getting transport,” Ms Musili said. “When we reached the sub-county clinic I was told the baby was in a bad position and they referred me to the county hospital where they performed a Caeserian section.”

She added that through TCB she attended four antenatal clinics.

A story of a mother with five children and a newborn living in a poor condition created the TCB idea. It was started in 2012 with five boxes as a Christmas gift to expectant mothers.

The TCB started distributing boxes to women widely especially in far-flung areas to reduce cases of infants dying of malaria, pneumonia and infections in the umbilical cord.

Barbara Achinga, 23-year-old college student, is another mother who uses boxes. In the morning she places the child in the box to bask in the sun.

Being a student she could not afford buying baby items, then she resorted to the box.

“The box has a soap that I use to wash my hands, blanket that keeps my baby warm and a net to prevent the child from mosquito bites; water treatment has also helped to keep our drinking water clean,” she said. “I am also able to carry out my other chores like dishwashing and laundry, knowing my child is safe.”

The women get the boxes for free but have to undergo a minimum of four antenatal clinics.

The box contains a baby blanket, baby clothes, mosquito nets, a diarrhea management kit, water purifier and other items that are necessary for the protection of the newborn, especially in the first 28 days after birth.

A public health researcher and founder of TCB, Lucy Wambui, said childhood illnesses are serious and has been a major issue worldwide.

“The reason women do not attend clinics or give birth in health facilities is because most of them are not educated on its need or importance. Another thing is lack of financial resources,” said Ms Wambui.

They almost gave up as the first mother to be given the box lost her baby. “If we can reach every mum in marginalised areas, it will be great since new born death rates will reduce,” she said.

According to Kennedy Otieno, a medical practitioner, the first 28 days of a newborn is life threatening.

“This is because this is the time that the system of the baby is low. They need to be taken care of like keeping them warm, protecting them from mosquito bites, cleaning the umbilical cord with a disinfector in order to prevent the early threatening deadly diseases such as neonatal sepsis that leads to pneumonia,” said Mr Otieno.

Reports by World Bank shows that infant mortality rate stands at 36/1000 deaths per year, and during neonatal period (28 days after birth) 38 percent deaths in children globally.

However, the mothers are trained in the proper use of the box and it also comes in handy where the baby sleeps comfortably in poor homes with limited sleeping space.

In 2017, women trained through Toto Care Box were 328 while in 2018 they were 529 and 2019 285 were trained by May 31. More than 1,147 boxes have been distributed since 2017 (328), 529 in 2018 while this year they were 285.

The boxes can be found in hospitals.