Construction of a neonatal intensive care unit at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital has commenced.
The construction of the facility supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is part of the Shs60 billion Northern Uganda regional referral hospitals improvement project.
The project aims to strengthen hospital functionality by providing facilities and equipment to Gulu, Lira and Arua Regional Referral Hospitals in Northern Uganda, and improve the quality and access to health services in the region.
According to Dr James Elima, the Hospital Director the facility will have a maternity wing, theatres and a casualty ward.
Dr Elima says the facility is expected to start functioning in October 2020.
“The structure is a complex of four theatres and a maternity ward, then there is also a neonatal intensive care unit for the preterm babies,” he said.
“It also has other offices but will come with its own equipment from Japan with a brand new ambulance,” he added.
A 2019 data report by United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) revealed that 226,000 babies in Uganda are born too soon each year and 12,500 of them under five years die due to direct preterm complications.
The data reveals that essential new-born that includes; drying, warming, exclusive breastfeeding, hygiene and cord care, as well as basic neonatal care, can mean the difference between life and death for premature babies.
The major causes of neonatal deaths in Uganda like in other Sub Saharan African countries include; pneumonia, tetanus, diarrhoea, premature, and birth asphyxia as well as low utilization of health services during pregnancy and childbirth.
World Health Organization (WHO) statistics indicate that 15 million children born worldwide every year are preterm cases with sub-Saharan African countries including Uganda as the most affected. Uganda ranks 13th out of 184 countries with highest number of babies born early and 11th for new-born deaths due to preterm birth complications.