Meet Serge Njidjou: the Cameroonian who invented incubators operating without electricity

Mohammed Awal April 15, 2020
Image: Cameroononline

Several factors are responsible for infant mortality rate in Cameroon and Africa, including the insufficiency of neonatal incubators. 

Neonatal period – the first 28 days of life – is the riskiest for a child and according to a research by the Italian Journal of Pediatrics “it still remains a significant health issue in sub-urban Cameroon largely because of three pathologies; complications of preterm birth, birth asphyxia, and infections.” 

The study dubbed: A cohort analysis of neonatal hospital mortality rate and predictors of neonatal mortality in a sub-urban hospital of Cameroon, therefore, proposed among many other solutions to neonatal resuscitation.

With Cameroon recording more than 100,000 premature births out of close to one million births each year, incubators are a necessity in preventing the figures for infant mortality surging.

This brings us to Serge Armel Njidjou and his solution. To overcome the lack of neonatal equipment in hospitals across Cameroon, Njidjou has been developing interactive incubators as a solution.

The incubators are said to be made up of a device that have sensitive energy fluctuations. “To prevent numerous power cuts and therefore unstable electrical energy, these devices have a system of autonomy that allows them to operate even without electricity,” Njidjou told Anadolu Agency.

Njidjou and his team at the University Agency for Innovation (UAI) decided to embark on the design and creation of incubators to shore up the inadequacy in Cameroonian hospital after a tragic incident in 2016, where a mother lost her quintuplets in a Cameroonian hospital.

Badly bruised by that incident, he made a vow to embark on a project that will lead to the reduction of neonatal deaths, leading to the development of the home-made neonatal incubator in 2018.

“We started by taking stock of why there was a problem with incubators in Cameroonian hospitals. We have seen that each year in Cameroon, on average, 22,000 babies die, or 3 deaths per 1,000 live births. Prematurity is the number one cause of neonatal mortality. The cause here is the shortage of neonatal incubators in hospitals across the country. There are less than 100 newborn incubators in working order, for more than 5000 health facilities approximately,” Njidjou told Sputnik

According to him, the imported neonatal incubators do not resist the fluctuations in electrical energy that Cameroon and most African countries experience and the slightest drop in voltage or the slightest sudden load shedding can be fatal. 

However, the incubators being manufactured by Njidjou, Anadolu Agency reported are the only ones in the world with the ability to manipulate temperatures to avoid plastic incubator burns, capturing at the same time the best temperature for babies.

Again the incubators are said to possess a special digital system feature allowing it to be remotely monitored from a smartphone as well as allowing air circulation speed, the ambient temperature, and the water level to be closely controlled.

“It is by taking into account these parameters linked to our context that we designed our new incubator. We spent a whole year doing research and development. Today we have an interactive AUI 1.0 neonatal incubator. It is the first neonatal incubator entirely designed and manufactured in sub-Saharan Africa. It complies with international standard IEC-601-2-19,” Njidjou told Sputnik.

Njidjou manufactures 30 incubators monthly for a selling price of about $3,400 each, saying: “I am happy to help babies who need it. This product has also received many local and international recognitions.”

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: April 15, 2020


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