Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The number of children seeking care for Acute Respiratory Tract Infections (RTIs) such as pneumonia reduced by 48 percent at the height of the lockdown instituted to halt the spread of Covid-19.
This is according to a new study conducted in Wakiso district between April and September last year by Makerere University pediatricians. The researchers sought to establish the effect of Covid-19 pandemic on access to community health care services for common childhood illnesses.
They found malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and injuries were the main childhood conditions for which caregivers sought help. The majority of the respondents said children who had cough or flu were often rushed to a Village Health Team (VHT) member or hospital to rule out Covid-19.
In an interview with URN on Monday, Dr Piloya-Were Theresa, the principal investigator said they sampled six health centres and 26 VHTs in addition to reviewing hospital records of the same period of April to August in 2019.
The total number of children seen by VHTs in the pre- Covid period was 742 against 683 during the Covid-19 period. When it comes to health facilities that include health centre IIs, IIIs and IVs, the total number of children seeking care for childhood illnesses increased by 11 percent, although Piloya says when it came to those with respiratory infections, they registered 221 children against 327 received in 2019. When it comes to diarrhoea, she says cases reduced by 11 percent in the first few months only to rise again.
She attributes the reductions to the implementation of standard operating procedures such as hand washing and social distancing. The team of researchers that include experts, Sabrina Kitaka and Ministry of Health’s Jesca Nsungwa say in their recommendations that the Ministry of Health needs to empower lower-level facilities and plan for them to face pandemics and disease outbreaks because they are the primary health providers and are key if they are to decongest referral centres.
However, they note the study was done in a small area and may not give a true representation of the whole country. They recommend bigger studies in rural settings to establish the effect in different settings.