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How a Nigerian tech startup is tackling baby jaundice and saving lives with solar-powered cribs

How a Nigerian tech startup is tackling baby jaundice and saving lives with solar-powered cribs
Source: tinyheartshq.com

The Crib A’Glow phototherapy unit is a solar-powered, foldable and low-cost phototherapy unit that cures neonatal jaundice in new born babies with no after-effects such as skin burns, rashes and dehydration on the baby, thanks to LED technology.

Making Phototherapy Treatment Affordable & Accessible for Babies

Globally, an estimated 6 million jaundiced babies do not receive phototherapy treatment because they lack access to effective phototherapy units. The dire consequences of untreated jaundice are cerebral palsy, hearing loss, mental retardation and even death. Nigerian tech startup Tiny Hearts Technology’s solution is the “Crib A’glow” unit – a solar phototherapy crib for the treatment of jaundice in newborn babies. The tech firm provides these units and deploy them to community primary healthcare centres and other medical facilities in nondescript suburban and rural thriving communities to close the gap of cost, access and electricity.

The Phototherapy Unit designed by Tiny Hearts Technology is unlike the conventional phototherapy units that uses florescent bulbs which leads to dehydration and other side effects during jaundice treatment.
Crib A’Glow Phototherapy unit is a solar-powered, foldable and low-cost phototherapy unit that cures neonatal jaundice in new born babies. The Phototherapy Unit designed by Tiny Hearts Technology is unlike the conventional phototherapy units that uses florescent bulbs which leads to dehydration and other side effects during jaundice treatment. Source: tinyheartshq.com
The features embedded in the unit makes it easy to be used in any part of the world including rural areas since it does not require electricity to function therefore all health centres across the globe can access the unit and save children from the effects of untreated jaundice.
The foldable nature of the phototherapy unit makes it easy for movement from one place to the other. The features embedded in the unit makes it easy to be used in any part of the world including rural areas since it does not require electricity to function therefore all health centres across the globe can access the unit and save children from the effects of untreated jaundice. Source: AfricanLeadersMagazine

VIRTUE OBORO Co-Founded Nigerian Tech Startup to Fight Baby Jaundice with Solar-Powered Cribs

In 2015, Virtue Oboro experienced every mother’s worst nightmare: at just 48 hours old, her newborn son was rushed into hospital for emergency treatment.

Her son, Tombra, was diagnosed with jaundice, a common condition affecting more than 60% of newborns worldwide. Many cases are mild and resolve on their own, but more serious cases require phototherapy, where babies are placed under blue light.

It’s a simple, effective treatment — but in some places, including Oboro’s home country of Nigeria, access to the necessary equipment isn’t always possible. Not getting treatment can lead to irreversible health problems including hearing loss, vision impairment, brain damage and cerebral palsy. In rare cases, it can lead to death.

Tombra’s case was severe, but there were no phototherapy units available and the family waited four hours while his condition deteriorated.

Eventually, he was given an emergency blood transfusion — a risky surgery that bought valuable time until a phototherapy unit became available. Oboro says she had to buy the bulb herself, and power outages meant the unit was off for several hours during Tombra’s seven-day treatment. Oboro’s experience with power outages and broken equipment isn’t uncommon in Nigeria.

Despite the many obstacles, her son, now six, made a full recovery. But Oboro says the experience was traumatising — and it inspired her to change careers.

Driven by a new mission to save babies from jaundice, she created the Crib A’Glow: a portable, affordable, solar-powered phototherapy unit, which treats jaundice using blue LED lights.

“I felt like some of the things (I experienced) could have been avoided, or the stress level could be reduced,” she told CNN. “I thought, is there something I could do to make the pain less for the babies and the mothers?”

Source: CNN

The Crib A' glow phototherapy unit is very effective for neonatal jaundice treatment because it does not have after-effects like skin burns, rashes and dehydration on the baby due to LEDS light component in it.
Baby Recieving Treatment in A Crib A’Glow Phototherapy Unit. The Crib A’ glow phototherapy unit is very effective for neonatal jaundice treatment because it does not have after-effects like skin burns, rashes and dehydration on the baby due to LEDS light component in it. Source: tinyheartshq.com
This makes the phototherapy unit a major medical device needed in paediatric units across the globe.
Many health centres have tried and attested to its effectiveness. This makes the phototherapy unit a major medical device needed in paediatric units across the globe. Source: None

Crib A’Glow is powered with solar energy and folds flat so it’s easy to move

One of the most effective phototherapy units currently used in Nigeria costs around $2,000, a steep sum for hospitals on a budget. But Crib A’Glow — produced in Nigeria using local materials — is able to save on added fees like import tax, and retails for $360 per unit. Additionally, because it’s portable and solar powered, the device can be used at home by parents living in remote areas with limited or inconsistent access to electricity.

Oboro and her team, including pediatricians and healthcare workers, are now developing protective eyewear for babies to use in the phototherapy units.

The Crib A’Glow innovation has received award grants including $50,000 from Johnson and Johnson’s Africa Innovation Award. Most recently, the device was selected as a finalist for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize 2022.

While the Crib A’Glow might seem like an ingenious solution, Oboro says she has faced resistance from hospitals and medical professionals in Nigeria. “It was not an easy thing to get them to test the unit, because the perception was if it was made in Nigeria, it probably would not work well,” she says.

Despite these barriers, the cribs are already being used by more than 500 hospitals across Nigeria and Ghana, treating over 300,000 babies, says Oboro, and the company is hoping to expand into other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Demand for the cribs has soared during the Covid-19 pandemic, says Oboro, as many parents wanted to avoid hospitals and look after their newborns at home. The team is working on protective eye wear, to blindfold babies safely during phototherapy. 

Source: CNN/AfricanLeadersMagazine

Jaundice is a liver condition where a baby’s skin and the white part of the eyes appear yellow due to excess bilirubin. Due to possible effects of untreated neonatal jaundice such as palsy, hearing loss and brain damage, instant treatment is recommended once diagnosed in new born babies using the Crib A' glow phototherapy unit designed for this purpose.
The phototherapy unit provides comfort for the young patient and allows mother-child relationship during treatment. Jaundice is a liver condition where a baby’s skin and the white part of the eyes appear yellow due to excess bilirubin. Due to possible effects of untreated neonatal jaundice such as palsy, hearing loss and brain damage, instant treatment is recommended once diagnosed in new born babies using the Crib A’ glow phototherapy unit designed for this purpose. Source: tinyheartshq.com
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