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British man saves over 1,500 premature babies in war-torn Ukraine

James Roberts developed a folding incubator at Loughborough University when he was just 22. His invention is being used in the Ukraine to save the lives of premature babies born during the war. 

Final year university project saves lives

Inspired by a documentary about Syria, James Roberts decided to develop a folding incubator at the age of 22, as part of his final year project at Loughborough University. 

Now 31, the British inventor is being hailed as a “hero”. The lightweight, battery-powered incubator is being used in war-torn Ukraine to save the lives of babies born prematurely. In an environment where the mains power supply cannot be guaranteed, the battery-powered technology can ensure continued care when the electricity is disrupted.

Weighing only 20kg, the foldable incubator can be transported easily, meaning that babies can even be moved to bomb shelters without leaving behind this life-saving equipment. 

Incubators sent to Ukraine

Roberts spoke about being inspired to send his invention to Ukraine. “I saw terrible reports about what was happening in Ukraine. The entire team did. And we knew we could do something meaningful to help”, he said

“We heard from contacts in Ukraine that physicians were having to make the difficult choice of taking premature babies down into bomb shelters without the equipment they needed, or staying in maternity units where they risked being maimed or killed”.

In response to what Roberts and his team saw, 75 of Roberts’ “mOm” incubators have been sent to Ukraine and have already saved the lives of more than 1,500 premature babies. Ukraine’s Ministry of Health has asked for 100 more of them to be sent over. 

War increases the number of premature births

Herve Verhoosel, a representative of the global health organisation Unitaid, explained that in countries where there is war, the number of premature births can increase. Speaking of Ukraine, he said “The war increases the level of stress in pregnant women, leading to an increase in premature births reported, up to three times more than before the war”.

Three-quarters of deaths of premature babies are preventable with medical support, such as an incubator. 

British group sends birth kits to Ukrainian mothers

A British charity is sending specialised birthing kits to help pregnant mothers in Ukraine who are frequently unable to access hospitals due to the current conflict.

Baby Lifeline, a Coventry-based charity, has put together specialised birthing kits containing blood pressure monitoring equipment, suture kits and a delivery pack. The kits have been designed by a panel of experts for use by midwives and other medical professionals. The charity says that each kit costs £1,000 and that they are being sent out to Ukraine via Poland.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said “This story shows the power of innovation and technology to save lives. It’s incredible to think that just 75 incubators have helped save over 1,500 premature babies in Ukraine”. 

“Premature babies are vulnerable in all circumstances but are even more at risk in a country at war. We applaud James Roberts’ invention and this great initiative to get these incubators to babies in Ukraine”. 

“We wish the children and their families all the best in the midst of these very difficult circumstances, as well as all those whose lives have been terribly affected by this war”. 

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