Nagorno Karabakh is a small enclave sandwiched between Armenia and Azerbaijan. A devastating war in the early 1990’s resulted in 25,000 deaths and the country’s infrastructure shattered. Medical facilities were in an appalling condition and the doctors and nurses were left demoralised and using outdated practices learnt from early Soviet days.

BirthLink has been working in Nagorno Karabakh for ten years, supporting maternal and new born healthcare. However the story started four years earlier in 2000 when Kathy Mellor, BirthLInk’s CEO, first visited the region to advise on the introduction of a new neonatal unit during the refurbishment of Stepanakert’s maternity hospital. New equipment was provided and a training programme devised and implemented. Regular visits during the following years ensured continued training and support along with the introduction of safer practices.

A significant grant by the St Sarkis Trust in 2006 enabled BirthLink to improve the facilities for sick newborn babies in Stepanakert’s Children’s Hospital, and following completion, funding was secured from other sources to enable us to introduce new equipment, and provide a continuing education programme. As a direct result of this work and also through the introduction of C-PAP, by 2010 perinatal mortality (death in the first 7 days) reduced from over 20/1000 to 8/1000.

This project involving C-PAP and nasal high flow therapy was extended to Karabakh’s outlying regions including Hadrut, Marterkert, Shushi, Martuni and Berdzor, where there had been in most cases no structural improvements to the maternity departments, and all hospitals lacked appropriate equipment for managing small or sick newborn babies.

Since 2009 Kathy has organised Neonatal conferences in Stepanakert bringing with her many highly experienced doctors and healthcare professionals from the UK to share their knowledge and encourage the medics attending to continue improving their practices, thereby ensuring improved outcomes for Karabakh’s babies.

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