On the 30th May 2023, Doctors with Africa CUAMM officially handed over the construction site to operate the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Kaabong Hospital, in Karamoja region in Uganda. The ground breaking ceremony was attended by district officials, hospital staff, the contractor, engineer and CUAMM staff.
The renovation works, which are expected to last for three months, are aimed at renovating and modifying the NICU, installing high voltage solar system and improving the water supply. Sandro Anyakun, the nutrition Focal point representing the District health office, noted that compared to the national target of 5%, prenatal death in Kaabong district stands at 14% which is quite high: a big challenge for the health care system. This is highly attributed to the non-functional neonatal unit in the hospital. Unreliable power has been a big factor in causing loss of live. “Any single minute without power in the hospital causes death of the neonates that survive thanks to machine support. I am grateful to the Embassy of Ireland for supporting CUAMM to revamp the NICU and empower human resources”, he noted.
“A fully functional NICU will help with taking care of premature babies, babies born with difficulty in breathing due to prolonged labour, babies with early neonatal infections among other conditions”, added Badaaza Mathias, the Medical Officer at the hospital. This could hopefully reduce the burden of referrals to Moroto where babies would end up dying on the way due to the long distance from Kaabong to Moroto.
Speaking on behalf of CUAMM and Embassy of Ireland, the Project manager Lilly Achayo said that only in the last nine months, Kaabong district has lost 60 babies but she believes that many deaths have never been reported since some babies die in the communities. She also highlighted that in the whole quarter, Kaabong hospital admits just one baby because the machines in the NICU were not working properly.
This is why CUAMM with support from the Embassy of Ireland decided to focus its effort on the NICU, particularly strengthening capacity building of health workers through mentorships, provision of scholarships in pediatric management, ten days’ attachment to the state of art NICU at Nsambya hospital to help health workers to get hands on training. In addition, the project supports the transport voucher system to facilitate referrals. As highlighted also by the Local Council V representative, the hospital management and district officials will have to take the ownership of the project to ensure its continuity and sustainability.
In addition to this event, another important one took place: a construction site was handed over for building the district drug and supplies store at Karenga HC IV which guarantee good security for the storage. On top of the store, there will be some offices for District Health Team. “I am very proud today to witness the beginning of these construction works, included in the district 2020 plan but discontinued due to lack of resources – said Ilukol Andrew Rews, the District Health Officer at Karenga -. I want to appreciate CUAMM for always identifying the district needs and working hard to address them, as well as the Embassy of Ireland that has been here for so many years and we are grateful that it is still supporting us”.
Great emphasis was placed on ensuring good quality work and delivery on time, promoting the use of local construction materials and the employment of local workers, always with respect for human rights.