Mexican NGO aims to cut infant deaths with cardboard cribs

World Today

In Mexico, a new program is trying to save the lives of newborn babies — with simple cardboard boxes. CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports.

Two weeks ago, 20-year-old Paola Ramirez gave birth to her first child, a girl named Valentina. The father abandoned her mid-pregnancy, and after giving birth, she brought her newborn daughter back to the family’s rural home.

“There are eight of us at home. My parents and my siblings,” Ramirez said.

Until recently, little Valentina has shared a bed with Paola and her two sisters, but that changed when she was given a cardboard box filled with supplies to care for a newborn. The box itself also doubled as a cradle.

The box was given to her by Luciana Biondo, the founder of Cunas de Carton, or Cardboard Cradles, an initiative that seeks to help newborns from Mexico’s most marginalized communities.

“We need mothers to know about the importance of a baby having its own space,” Biondo said.

Since the charity’s founding four years ago, Luciana has delivered over 80,000 cardboard cradles to mothers and their newborns across Mexico.

“We have seen that more than 90% of the pregnant Mexican women we help don’t obtain any sort of product that provides for the baby’s safety,” Biondo said “And studies show that when a baby shares its sleeping space with an adult, that the risk of crib death is five times higher. So for us it’s about getting to these kids before they become accustomed to sleeping alongside their parents.”

The cardboard cradle idea came from Finland, where they have been handed out to new mothers since the 1930s.

The practice is taking off in Mexico, a country which still struggles with extreme poverty and poor healthcare in many regions. Medical professionals in Mexico say the cardboard cradles greatly improve a newborn’s survival prospects.

Dr. Jose Luis Veysa is a general practitioner serving a rural community, and says the cardboard cradles have made a big difference.

“The communities that live in the remotest regions live in areas of very extreme climate, and their access to medical services in the town is very difficult,” Veysa said. “The advantage of these cardboard boxes is that they conserve heat, which helps to regulate the baby’s body temperature in extreme conditions, avoiding death caused by low temperatures.”

Luciana’s project was named one of Latin America’s top 500 social and environmental projects in 2016, and as she continues her work, she hopes to see the benefits reflected in the next generation.