Kampala,, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Mulago Women and Neonatal Unit recorded an increase in the number of mothers giving birth to premature babies at the height of the lockdown and just after they started to partially lift it.
The unit that houses the country’s biggest Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has a 50-bed capacity.
Dr Anita Tumwebaze, a paediatrician at the newborn unit of Mulago Women and Neonatal hospital said that more than 100 cases were recorded. She says that several mothers that had premature babies reported having lost their jobs in the lockdown, some couldn’t make it for antenatal care whereas others say they lost social support.
She said even those that had been discharged and scheduled to come for review, many didn’t turn up and have never reported even after lockdown.
She says these might have died in the community due to lack of support medicines since such babies need supplements to help them boost their immunity even after discharge.
The doctor says caring for a premature baby is a very expensive process which is made once by the fact that even in a government facility like Mulago, not everything is given at a free charge.
She says, for instance, caffeine a drug which helps a baby breath much easier is not on the essential medicines list and therefore for a mother to access the drug has to pay 50,000 Shillings and use it daily for two to three months.
Currently, in Uganda, 14 babies in every 1,000 live births are prematurely born with the leading causes being pre-eclampsia, uncontrolled pre-existing high blood pressure, stress, diabetes, multiple pregnancies, delivering too early or too late in terms of age of the mother, having an incompetent cervix, drug abuse and poor nutrition among others.
In terms of total numbers, the health ministry says 226,000 babies are born before the 47 weeks of gestation and 12 out of every 1,000 pre-term babies die within the first 28 days after birth.
As Uganda joined the rest of the world to mark Prematurity day on Tuesday, mothers that have had premature babies said these deaths can be averted if the government put in more money in the care especially for supplements and other drugs required for child survival.
Isabella Furaha Muhindi a two-time mother of premature babies who have since started an organization Mama Tulia Ministries says mothers need in addition to psycho-social support help in terms of food for proper nutrition since caring for a baby is an affordable, especially after long hospital duration.
On drugs alone, a mother in a government facility can spend up to Shs1.5million whereas in private facilities fees go to as high as 8 Million Shillings.
Muhindi says they have been several times called upon by health workers to rescue struggling mothers stranded in hospitals with babies.
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