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New neonatal facility saving babies’ lives

A new neonatal care facility in Kamwenge district has been at the heart of saving lives of newly born babies in the district.

Newly born babies at NICU at Rwamwanja Health Center III

The newly constructed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Rwamwanja Health Center III is the only health center providing in-patient services and health services within Rwamwanja refugee settlement, a home to about 83,000 refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

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Before, all babies that were born prematurely and those that required to be admitted in the Intensive care unit would have to be referred to Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital and this took at least one and a half hours to get to use an ambulance.

In 2020, Medical Teams International, a non-profit medical humanitarian and global health organisation, with support from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees embarked on the construction of NICU at Rwamwanja HC III.

The facility was constructed with an aim of improving the mortality rate of newly born babies. With a capacity of six incubators (neonatal life support machine), the NICU has in one year so far supported 575 babies, an average of 47 babies admitted per month.

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Naturinda Sylvia, one of the first midwives at Rwamwanja Health Centre III, said the facility has improved timely access to critical care services to sick newborns.

The NICU has really improved timely access to critical care services to sick newborns because before this, the babies would initially be referred here from other health centers, and we would again refer them to Fort Portal since we also couldn’t manage. Only a few of the babies would make it because the journey is very long and the roads are bumpy, most babies would die in transit,” she said.

She added that: “But now we can support babies by moving them right from the labor suit to the NICU. Some of them need oxygen while others need warmth and we have all the machines to provide the immediate care that is needed for them to survive.”

Natukunda Immaculate, a 22-year-old-year mother, who we ran into at the facility said she had come to feed her twins. From our interaction with her, Natukunda said she gave birth to the first child from home and walked to hospital for medical treatment.

Upon arrival, she was informed that her baby was a pre-mature and that she still had a second child that she needed to deliver.

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I delivered my twins at only 8 months of pregnancy. I didn’t know I was having twins and by the time the second baby was delivered, he was already very tired. We were referred to this Rwamwanja HCIII and I was told both my babies needed oxygen and warmth,” Natukunda narrated.

When she arrived at the health facility, Natukunda’s twins were both placed in incubators for warmth, and they started receiving IV fluids. She was also given psychosocial support and given knowledge on how to feed her babies while in the NICU.

“The babies have now been in the NICU for three weeks and they’ve greatly improved. I’m very happy because the nurses here are supporting my babies well. If I hadn’t found these free services here, I don’t know what was going to happen to my twins,” she added.

Despite the daily challenges she faces, Naturinda is motivated by the joy she feels each time she discharges a healthy baby.

I’m very happy when a baby that was admitted with a weight under 1Kg is managed well until he/she is discharged. We continue following up the baby and with time you realise the baby is now 4Kgs, I feel so happy when I see a child progressing and growing up healthy,” she said.

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Naturinda said there’s still need to establish at least one more NICU within one of the other health centers that are far away in order to minimise the distances travelled and loss of babies’ lives.

The distances between here and other health centers is long, and some babies still arrive here when they’re exhausted. The space we have in this NICU is usually not enough to accommodate all the babies, sometimes we must put three babies in one incubator to ensure they all survive,” she said.

Access to Neonatal care services stills remain inadequate in other settlements with high deaths by mid-year 2022.

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