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By Goodluck Musinguzi

Ministry of Health setup a National Newborn Steering Committee to make sure no child dies at birth. This comes after thousands of children are born too soon each year and need special care under Neonatal Intensive Care Unit until they grow well. Preterm birth is defined as the birth of a baby before 37 completed weeks of gestation.

The mandate of advising on issues of newborn survival has been done very well and they are expanding facilities that host Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The Steering Committee has overseen rapid changes in policy at both health facility and community levels, and changes to essential drugs and commodities.

27 premature birth per 1000 delivered is registered Nationally while 32 premature birth per 1000 were recorded in Busoga Region. 27 premature birth nationally translates to 226,000 babies that are born in Uganda too soon each year.

Ms Margaret Nakakeeto, the chairperson of newborn steering committee in the Ministry of Health, said: “When we started as the new-born steering committee, we said we are going to do a responsive and sustainable system for the newborn and we are glad Plan International has taken lead as a child-centred organisation to ensure no child dies at birth.”

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit(NICU) at Kamuli General Hospital whose construction works started in August 2020 has been opened. The unit will help facilitate child and maternal care in Kamuli district and the surrounding areas.

Rt Hon Rebecca Kadaga, First Deputy Prime Minister , Minister of East African Affairs and Woman MP Kamuli thanked the great team of medical workers of Kamuli District Hospital and the Country Manager of Plan International , a great job for our people.

“It is a very exciting day for the people of kamuli as we open the Neo-natal intensive care unit , pictured are the children who have survived as a result of the existence of the Neo-natal intensive unit”, Rt Hon Kadaga said.

Rt Hon Kadaga called upon medical personnel to ensure that they provide the proper care, at the right time in the right place, including referrals of pre-mature, small, and sick newborns from communities and lower health facilities.

The construction of a Shs500 million Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was started last year at Kamuli District General Hospital.Newborn babies who need intensive medical care are often put in a special area of the hospital called NICU. The NICU has advanced technology and trained healthcare professionals to give special care for the patients.

The Kamuli District health officer, Dr Fred Duku, said the facility will be a landmark for the ‘new-born headaches’ since it will be complete with a standby generator and solar power.

Dr Duku said he anticipates an influx of premature births arising from the Covid-19 lockdown due to the rise in teenager pregnancies.

The facility has been constructed with support from Plan International Uganda in partnership with the people of Japan and Germany. It has a capacity of 40 beds.

The Head of Programme Strategy at Plan International Uganda, Greg Lavender, said the construction of the facility is to reaffirm the organization’s commitment towards working with government, local and international partners in strengthening the health service delivery and bringing lasting change in the area of child survival.

As the world commemorates World Prematurity Day last year, Uganda”s Health Officials said they are making efforts to reduce preterm births in a bid to curb child mortality.

Uganda, ranks the 28th worldwide in preterm births, with an estimated 13.6 per 1,000 live births. Approximately 226,000 babies are born too soon every year and of these 12,500 children under five die due to preterm complications.

Preterm birth is the birth of a baby before 37 weeks of gestation, according to World Health Organization. Globally, 15 million infants are born preterm each year, and one million die due to prematurity, according to the ministry figures. Over 60 percent of the preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia.

Preterm birth is likely to occur in women living in rural areas and those who do not attend antenatal.

To reverse this trend, the ministry of health said several measures have been put in place. The commemorations was held under the theme “together for babies born too soon. Caring for the future”.

Charles Olaro, director of the curative services, ministry of health, told reporters that the ministry set up a national newborn steering committee comprising of health professionals and development partners to support implementation of high impact interventions.

By the end of 2019, according to Olaro, the committee had supported the establishment of 19 neonatal care centers around the country.

This year, the ministry has also set up a neonatal intensive care unit equipped with advanced newborn care machines at the Kawempe National Referral Hospital.

Another neonatal intensive care unit has been set up in Kamuli in the eastern part of the country. The unit has a 40-bed-capacity, according to Olaro.

Olaro said plans are also underway to establish newborn care units in health facilities in and surrounding the capital Kampala in efforts to reduce neonatal mortality. The move is also aimed at building capacity and onsite mentoring of health workers.

The ministry has also conducted onsite training and mentorship to provide managerial and clinical skills in core competencies for managing sick and small newborns among frontline health care providers.

In northwestern Uganda for instance, over 150 health care providers have been skilled in infection prevention, newborn resuscitation, and caring for sick newborns and small babies.

Olaro said despite these efforts more is still needed.

“We also still have challenges of human resource to work in the newborn care units as majority of the facility managers hardly allocate specific staff to the department,” he said, adding that lower facilities lack the required equipment and have inadequate space.

“This means that each one of us has a role to play to encourage and support all pregnant mothers to attend timely antenatal care, have good nutrition, have insecticide treated mosquito nets and deliver from health facilities,” Olaro said.

“In case of premature births, let’s ensure that we provide the right care, at the right time in the right place including referrals of premature, small and sick newborns from communities and lower health facilities,” he said. Enditem

Maternal and newborn health (MNH) are strongly linked. The periods of greatest risk for morbidity and mortality for women and children are the hours that precede delivery, and the immediate hours and first seven days following birth.

Maternal morbidity and complications during childbirth are a main cause for
stillbirths and newborn deaths. Newborn survival and health are intrinsically linked to the health, well-being and nutrition of women before conception and during and between pregnancies.

Perinatal conditions and birth defects are the leading causes of newborn deaths. Complications during pregnancy, childbirth and the
postpartum period are the main causes worldwide for maternal deaths.


About Musinguzi Goodluck

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