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.
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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.
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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
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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.