Handover of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Equipment at Mbabane Government Hospital
-UNICEF Representative Dr Alice Akunga
MBABANE,03 September 2020-Honorable Minister of Health – Senator Lizzie Nkosi,Honorable Principal Secretary,Ministry of Health officials,colleagues,the Media,Ladies and Gentlemen good Morning
It is my great pleasure and honor today to participate in the handover of neonatal equipment which will be used in the newly established Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mbabane Government Hospital.
In the past 30 years, there has been remarkable global progress for newborn and child survival. The 2019 Global ‘Every Newborn Report’ indicates that the neonatal mortality rate declined by more than half between 1990-2018; from 37 to 18 deaths per 1000 live births. Despite this remarkable progress, the risk of dying for every person is the highest during the time of birth and around the first month of life.
It is estimated that the world faces nearly 7,000 newborn deaths every day, this is a major disaster; what is more concerning is that most of these deaths are preventable or can be managed to avert death. The statistics highlighted here should encourage us to do more for our newborns and Children.
Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is disheartening to note that the neonatal mortality rate of Eswatini is one of the highest in the region at 20/1000 live births, and infant mortality is at 53/1000 live births. The impact of COVID-19 emergency will most likely worsen the situation as our health system gets over stretched with health workers being called to support and prioritize the COVID-19 response. I therefore encourage the Ministry of Health even during the COVID era, to still ensure that the neonates are not left behind. Strengthening the health care system and ensuring delivery of quality health services for the Newborns can easily turn around the depressing statistics.
UNICEF with financial aid from the UK government (UK AID) is funding a 3-year project in Eswatini focusing on improving coverage and quality of newborn care services. This project is targeted for implementation in the 11 major Government hospitals situated across all the four regions of Eswatini, including the national referral Mbabane Government Hospital which is receiving the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit equipment today. This project is based on an integrated approach to strengthen provision of health, nutrition, HIV, early stimulation and nurturing care for children 0 to 2 years in 20 Tinkhudla in the four regions of the country.
Since the start of the project in September 2019, 49 health care workers out of a targeted 200 have been trained on essential newborn care and 66 community health care workers out of a targeted 500 have been trained on integrated approaches to Maternal Health, Newborn Care, Nutrition and Early Childhood Stimulation. However, the advent of COVID-19 pandemic has delayed achievements of some set targets due to disruptions in the project implementation. I wish to applaud the leadership efforts of the Ministry of Health, which has ensured continued provision of essential health care services including newborn care during this unprecedented trying time.
UNICEF Eswatini commits continued support to the Government of Eswatini to create a resilient and efficient health care system that can produce positive health outcomes for the citizens and create positive lifelong opportunities for the future generations.
This handover ceremony of the Neonatal ICU equipment today marks one of the many special moments in the UNICEF and Ministry of Health collaboration for the betterment of the health and wellbeing of children in Eswatini. UNICEF will continue to prioritize newborn care and to ensure that all neonates including the very sick are given a good chance to survive and thrive.
The equipment being handed over today has a total value of 6,710,189.00 Emalangeni. I am hopeful that the Ministry of Health will ensure that the newly established Newborn Intensive Care Unit is provided with the best qualified personnel who will take interest in caring for the newborns and are willing to go an extra mile in meeting the expected standards.
In addition, Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen. UNICEF would like to commend the Ministry’s recognition of the Rural Health Motivators as a critical part of the Health System. The Rural Health Motivators are critical for community health as they are the primary vehicle for providing updated information on health in the era of COVID-19. Eswatini has over 4,700 Rural Health Motivators (RHMs) who visit households. According to the Ministry of Health Community Based Services Report of 2018, the RHMs visited over 44,102 households and attend to 13,224 pregnant women. It is critical that even during this time of COVID-19, that service delivery continues, and that no babies die due to preventable causes.
The provision of the visibility materials will ensure that Rural Health Motivators will be easily identifiable. Beyond the provision of the visibility materials, UNICEF has supported training of all Lead RHMs on COVID-19, procured infection prevention supplies (including soap for all RHMs), and has provided the RHMs with information products to distribute at community level.
Let me take this opportunity to recognize our health care workers; most of whom go beyond the call of duty to take responsibilities to serve and save lives. I also want to commend the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini placing the needs of the future generation as a priority.
Honourable Minister, may I also recognize our funding partner, the UK AID for making this work possible.I thank you all for your attention.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.