This Kenyan is reducing infant mortality in the slums with her charming ‘Toto Care Box’

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Lucy Wambui Kaigutha

Lucy Wambui Kaigutha is passionate about preventing infant mortality in Kenya. She has therefore created the ‘Toto Care Box’ which contains all the essentials for newborns.

Kaigutha founded Toto Care Box in 2016 to give carton boxes freely to mothers in the slums who’ve just given birth. The box and its contents alleviate the risks that contribute to infant mortality.

She said the idea to create the box originated in a little village called Marich in West Pokot, back in 2012 when she was working as a public health researcher, collecting data in integrated management of childhood illnesses.

While researching, she encountered a mother with five children – the last being two weeks old. According to her, the thought of that woman lingered in her mind until she chanced on a BBC article about “Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes” and that was her inspiration for the Toto Care Box.

Toto Care Box
Toto Care Box

The article talked about how for 75 years Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a box by the state, a tradition dating back to the 1930s which reportedly helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.

For any child, the neonatal period which is the first 28 days of life is the most vulnerable time for survival and reportedly Kenya has 33 percent neonatal deaths per 1000 live births. According to Kaigutha, she wants to help reduce the numbers with her product.

With the aim of achieving a similar outcome as Finland, Kaigutha decided to create the Toto Care Box personalized for Kenyans. It comes with 18 essential items that protect the baby in its first 28 days and it also serves as a crib for the baby to sleep in for up to three months.

In the Toto Care Box are a water-proof mattress, a set of baby clothes and a blanket; cotton wool and an antiseptic cream for cord care; Sunlight soap for promoting hand-washing and hygiene; Aqua guard for disinfecting drinking water, and a mosquito net to drape over the box when the baby is sleeping inside.

Toto Care Box
Toto Care Box

According to Kaigutha, the items in the box were chosen due to their possible impact on reducing the four-main causes of new born deaths in Kenya which are Malaria, Pneumonia, Diarrhoea, Gastroenteritis and Neonatal tetanus.

In July 2016, Kaigutha and three of her friends: Dr Angela Kavila-Kwinga, a trained pharmacist, Dr Jacqueline Gachihi, another pharmacist Wanja and Helen Wanja Kariuki, a Public Health and Finance Specialist deliberated and came up with plans for Lucy’s idea bearing in mind the four major causes of newborn deaths.

They thought of how they could significantly reduce the statistics to zero and at the same time get moms to make their minimum four antenatal care visits and give birth at a health facility.

They are now a team of five women with backgrounds in health empowering women to take care of their new-born using the Toto Care Box and its contents.

Toto Care Box team
Toto Care Box team (left to right) Helen Kariuki, Jacqueline Gachihi, Catherine Gachihi, Angela Kwinga, and Lucy Kaigutha

And now the Toto Care Box is freely offered as an incentive to every new mother, who attends at least four prenatal check-ups where basic infant care information is given. The women also go through certified training on the use of the box and the need to give birth in a health facility.

Just as its mission states, Toto Care Box Africa Trust exists to protect, preserve and promote the health and well-being of newborns in their first 28 days of life.

After taking an entrepreneurial course, these women have developed a business side of the Toto Care Box Africa Trust to ensure sustainability while still maintaining focus on the mother and the new-born but also providing products and services for sale to a different segment of mothers. A percentage of all sales from products and services rendered goes to support a Toto Care Box.

Kaigutha explains more about Toto Care Box in this video: