Uganda loses 46,000 children annually to preventable diseases- UNICEF

A pupil of Kitante Primary School in Kampala receives a measles, rubella and polio vaccine during the nationwide immunisation campaign on October 16, 2019. Many parents are sceptical about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines for their children. PHOTO | FILE

The United Nations Children Fund has revealed that at least 46,000 Ugandans under the age of 18 succumb to preventable diseases annually making the country to be one of those with high children mortality rates around the globe.

According to a report on the state of children in Uganda 2022 presented by UNICEF, the increased death rates are attributed to the decrease in the vaccination levels for the last two years with DPT vaccination dropping from 90 to 87 percent in 2021/2022.

Presenting the report before, ministers, Members of parliament and other stakeholders in the protection of children during the Recovery and Resilience Dialogue for Children held in Kampala on Tuesday, the social policy manager for UNICEF, Mr Tawanda Chinembiri, said Uganda has continued to register death of children to HIV/AIDs, teenage maternal deaths and infant mortality among others.

“Out the known 88,000 children living with HIV/AIDs only 68 per cent are on Antiretroviral (ARVs) drug, this puts the remaining 32 per cent at risk of losing their lives at a tender age,” Mr Chinembiri said.

He added, “There has been a 10 per cent increase in newborn deaths in FY2021/2022 compared to FY2020/2021. At least 29 per cent of children are stunted and 46 per cent of the health service centres lack proper Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services which all contribute to the deaths among children.''

The Assistant Commissioner for Reproductive and Infant Health, Dr Richard Mugahi, in a recent interview with this publication said Uganda loses 400 newborns every week or an average of 57 infants per day. 

Dr Mugahi also attributed the deaths to diseases like Malaria, pregnancy complications and poor nutrition among others.

Speaking at the same event, the head of the delivery unit at the office of the Prime Minister, Mr Robert Kasule Ssebunya, said that nearly half of the maternal deaths are out of teenage pregnancies and 18 per cent of the total births in Uganda are out of teenage pregnancies which risks the lives of the infants since the teenage mothers are not always to prepared to take care of their babies.

The UNICEF country representative, Mr Munir Safieldin, urged government to ensure that the laws which protect children are implemented to ensure that cases of maternal deaths which result from sexual abuse are prevented.

“Uganda has wonderful laws for the protection of children, but perhaps due to the lack of funding and trained personnel most of these laws are not enforced in an effective way, this why many girls are getting pregnant and majority of them are not getting justice” Mr Safieldin

“Children can only get justice and protection if we have more government spending on the enforcement of the laws that have been made to protect the children. Government should also inject more money in primary education to ensure that the 2.2 million children enrolled in schools every year are kept there,” he added.