Dr Jessica Nsungwa, the Commissioner Child Health at the Ministry of Health has said there need to create awareness so that the public and government institution can get more knowledge about premature births.
Premature births are those where a baby is born weeks before the usual gestation period of 40 weeks.
Speaking at the function to mark the International Premature day, organized by Mama Tulia Ministries, an organization looking after premature babies and their mothers, Nsungwa said there is an information gap lacking about these births.
“Society does not understand the value of these babies and that they can survive. Many don’t know that these babies can actually. It is appalling that when someone gives birth to a premature, the baby is equated to a rat( because they are very small. We need to change this mindset,”Nsungwa said.
The Ministry of Health official said the awareness drive must also be extended to policy makers in the various government ministries.
“There is need to ensure that everybody knows about premature births but also encourage families to love prematures. Parents who have given birth to prematures should be supported.”
Dr.Nsungwa however, said there is a big problem of a few neonatal specialists in the country, a thing she said need to be dealt with.
The Health Ministry official however noted that the best thing to do is prevention of premature births by pregnant mothers.
“We should bring to an end, teenage pregnancies because a number of premature babies are born by teenage mothers. We should also encourage pregnant mothers to practice good nutrition,” Dr.Nsungwa said.
She, however, saluted Mama Tulia Ministries for their support to premature babies and their mothers, an approach she said needs to be taken on by government.
According to Isabelle Kavira Furaha, the founder, Mama Tulia Foundation, the organization visits various hospitals and homes where they advise and counsel mothers to premature babies but also provide some items used to care for the babies.
“We also visit hospitals to talk to mothers on what to do to ensure their premature babies are looked after well. We also donate items like kangaroo wrappers and other necessities to the less privileged mothers,”Furaha said.
She added that at their centre in Buziga, premature mothers engage in weaving doormats that they sell to get some money to look after their premature babies.
According to the World Health Organization, Uganda ranks 13th out of 184 countries with the highest number of babies born prematurely and 11th for number deaths due to complications from preterm birth.
Data from the Ministry of Health shows that each year, over 200,000 an equivalent of 14% of Ugandan babies are born prematurely.
The same data also indicates that complications of preterm birth are directly responsible for 31% of Uganda’s neonatal deaths.