REDUCING paediatric mortality is an inherently noble activity. It’s sadly more of a challenge for doctors in some regions of the world than it is in others.
In places like Uganda, for example, babies can be born in rural and resource-limited environments.
Despite the best efforts of ministries of health and local medical staff, there is a high infant mortality rate. This is the result of many factors, such as inadequate nutrition, availability of safe water, medication and immunisation, and the accessibility of child and maternal services.
Catherine Ntabadde Makumbi, of UNICEF Uganda, said that Uganda’s neonatal mortality rate has remained relatively static at 27 per 1,000 live births, representing nearly one half of all deaths in the first year of life (56 deaths per 1,000 live births). With the under-five mortality rate standing at 90 deaths per 1,000 live births, malaria, diarrhoea and infections like HIV account for more than 70% of under-five deaths.
Help at hand
While the statistics are of concern, thankfully there are individuals, charities and organisations working tirelessly to assist vulnerable babies, and their efforts are making a significant difference to infant mortality rates across Africa.
One couple, Dr Adam Hewitt Smith and Dr Kathy Burgoine, founded a charity called Born On The Edge in 2012, which aims to improve care for newborn babies at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital.
Recently the charity benefited from the aid of another charity, Safe Anaesthesia Worldwide (SAWW).
SAWW donated medical equipment from UK manufacturer, Diamedica, for Born On The Edge’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
It included CPAPs, devices to overcome respiratory distress in infants, and oxygen concentrators to spread between a number of patients. An inventive system had been used to distribute the oxygen – called the ‘octopus’ by staff at Born On The Edge – and it was certainly an innovative use of available resources.
Diamedica’s managing director, Robert Neighbour, stepped in to set up a new system, fitting an oxygen flowsplitter and replacing the ‘octopus’ with tubes running to each bed.
The new system and equipment have been met with delight from everyone who works at Born On The Edge, with Juliet, who works in the NICU declaring enthusiastically: “I call the CPAP is like a miracle machine. You have a baby with severe respiratory distress and they really pick up on the CPAP…”
Juliet was, in addition, very happy with the new flowsplitters, and said they meant having more control over oxygen levels given to the babies in her care.
Overall, Born On the Edge has been supported in their efforts to make a real difference to infant mortality rates in the region with the help of SAWW and Diamedica.
Having to date treated and saved the lives of more than 3,000 babies, you have to agree that’s a noble achievement on a very large scale.