Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Ten specialists – five pediatric nurses and doctors are set to benefit from the inaugural neonatal fellowship programme that was launched yesterday afternoon at Makerere University department of pediatrics and child health.
The programme that focuses on training health workers on care for babies aged below one month, comes at the time when poor neonatal care is blamed for the country’s failure to hit several child health targets. Ministry of Health statistics show that 19,000 children still die every year, yet 25 per cent of these deaths are preventable.
Dr Jessica Nsungwa, the Commissioner Child Health at the Ministry of Health said 39 per cent of the annual child mortality are recorded among babies aged below one month, something she attributes to lack of appropriate care for this group.
Dr Nsungwa was speaking at the launch of the programme which also an event to mark 60 years of the department’s existence.
She said that the government is now paying special attention to this group, the reason they sought a loan from the World Bank to cater for training since they were challenged by the fact that a specialist interested in gaining more skills in caring for these small babies had to fly abroad for training.
She however said that the country has already lost some slots as the first cycle of funding came when there were no specialists ready to take up the positions.
Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said the introduction of new specialty programmes at the institution is part of a bigger plan by the government to make the whole Mulago hill specialized since already they have the Mulago Specialized Maternal and Neonatal hospital operating and expect the main Mulago specialized hospital to open in December.
Even as these innovations are coming up, the minister said too many babies are being born and that the government will not afford to take care of the healthcare needs of all of them. She said only at the National Referral hospital in Kawempe, 90 to 120 children are born every day and some of them are born with conditions that need specialized care.
1.5 million children are born in Uganda every year and the country is among the top 15 countries in the world with the highest number of babies born prematurely at 226,000.