15 million infants are born prematurely every year across the world. Over 60% of these are in Sub-Saharan African and South Asian countries. In Uganda, approximately 226,000 babies are born too soon each year and 12,500 children under 5die due to direct pre-term complications.
Uganda will tomorrow Tuesday November 17, 2020 join the rest of the world to mark the World Prematurity Day. This will be commemorated under the theme; “Together for babies born too soon. Caring for the future”.
Uganda ranks 28th worldwide in preterm birth, estimated at 13.6 per 1000 live births.
According to Dr. Charles Olaro the Director Curative Services at Ministry of Health, prematurity is the current leading cause of death among children under five around the world, and a leading cause of disability and ill health later in life. Preterm births are directly responsible for 25% of the 27 neonatal deaths per 1000 live births.
The World Health Organization defines preterm birth as a birth of a baby before 37 weeks of gestation.
Dr, Olaro says preterm births in Uganda are more likely to occur in women living in rural areas, those who do not attend antenatal. “It is also higher for women who get PROM, APH and preeclampsia /eclampsia in pregnancy” he said.
Also, preterm birth may lead to Cerebral palsy, Impaired learning, vision problems hearing problems, dental problems, behavioral and psychological problems as well as chronic health issues.
Government has constituted the National Newborn Steering Committee comprising of health professionals and development partners to support the implementation of high impact interventions for the newborn under the “newborn health care agenda 2019.”
The goal of the newborn agenda is to improve newborn health care service delivery through establishment of efficient, effective, resilient and sustainable newborn healthcare system within available resources.
“This year 2020, the MOH together with partners has been able to set up State of the Art NICU at Kawempe National referral hospital which is equipped with advanced newborn care machines” Dr. Olaro says.
He adds that there has been an establishment of training, coaching and mentorship program for Kawempe National referral hospital. Also, plans are underway to establish newborn care units in the KCCA health facilities and those surrounding Kampala.
This is meant to reduce workload at Kawempe to promote quality health care service delivery and programs of establishing Capacity building and onsite mentoring will be key to reducing neonatal mortality.
Government has also setup a Neonatal Intensive care unit at Kamuli General Hospital which has been constructed with support from Plan International Uganda in partnership with the people of Japan and Germany at a cost of UGX 450M. The facility has a bed capacity of 40.