Neonatal Health: Government Interventions in Reducing Neonatal Deaths

The government of Uganda through the Ministry of Health has over the years concentrated on uplifting the maternal and neonatal health standards to reduce on complications or mortality faced by the mothers, unborn babies and the newborns.

The World Health Organisation notes that maternal mortality refers to the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the cause of death.

Improving Neonatal Health in Uganda

The 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey indicates that Uganda has made major strides in reducing child mortality and maternal mortality.

According to the Director of Curative Services at the ministry of Health, Dr Charles Olaro, the Ministry of Health constituted the National Newborn Steering Committee comprising of health professionals and development partners to support the implementation of high impact interventions for the new borns under the “newborn health care agenda 2019.”

He said that the goal of the newborn agenda is to improve newborn health care service delivery through establishment of efficient, effective, resilient and sustainable newborn health care system within available resources.

“This was figured to give a new face to the country’s care for all newborns leaving no one behind. By the end of 2019, the newborn steering committee, with the support from implementing partners, had supported the establishment and setting of 19 neonatal care centres around the country,” he added.

Dr Olaro said that together with its partners, the ministry has this year been able to set up a “State of the Art” Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Kawempe National Referral Hospital which is equipped with advanced newborn care equipment.

This has been coupled with training, coaching and mentorship programs for Kawempe NRH staff. In August 2020, a team led by Dr Diana Atwine, the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary held a one week support supervision at Kawempe National Referral Hospital.

“Plans are underway to establish newborn care units in KCCA health facilities and those surrounding Kampala. This is meant to reduce on the workload at Kawempe to promote quality health care service delivery. Plans of establishing capacity building and onsite mentoring will be key to reducing neonatal mortality,” he revealed.

Dr. Olaro further stated that the Ministry of Health has 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 maternity and neonatal units.

Over 152 health workers were mentored in the West Nile Region on infection prevention, newborn resuscitation, caring for the sick newborns and small babies, essential newborn care and advanced resuscitation.

“Government has also set up 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 Shs 450m. It has a bed capacity of 40,” he said.

Mulago Specialised Women and Neonatal Hospital – NICU

The Mulago Specialised Women and Neonatal Hospital was set up to provide highly specialised reproductive and neonatal health services for refereed patients. It was also intended to reduce referrals abroad.

The hospital was commissioned in 2018 to help in reducing maternal and neonatal mortalities through improving on the healthcare service delivery.

In the 2020 Heroes In Health Awards magazine by the Ministry of Health, Mary Kabugho, the Principal Hospital Administrator revealed that the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Mulago is able to take care of numerous babies at a go.

The May 2017 Uganda Profile of Preterm and low birth prevention and care noted that currently, prematurity is the leading cause of death among children under five around the world, and a leading cause of disability and ill health later in life.

In order to deal with the problem, Kabugho said that the NICU is able to take care of the preterm babies till their should-be due date of being born.

“It’s a 41 bed capacity with more than 5 specialised doctors and the equipment is the state of the art. This helps us to save lives of these pre-term babies. This unit also includes an 18 bed capacity for the Kangaroo Mother care,” she revealed.

She also said that the Urogynecology Department is very busy, dealing with women who get complications after giving birth. The department has a 54 bed capacity and more than 3 specialists on ward.


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