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UNICEF partner providing timely care and support for babies during their first days

maternal and new born care in uganda
Nema stares at her new born baby at Yiinga Health centre
By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye

Every pregnant woman’s dream is to have a safe pregnancy and eventually a healthy baby. This too was Nema Adera’s dream the day she was confirmed pregnant. Unfortunately for her, just four months into the pregnancy, she had to flee her country, South Sudan due to the ongoing unrest.

For five days, she and other family members had to endure hunger, rain, mosquitoes, sleeping in the bush, long hours of trekking, before they finally arrived at the Ugandan border. As she narrates her story, one can tell that her journey was not a smooth one. The fear of losing her unborn baby along the way lingered on her mind all the time. “I always dreamt of having a healthy child, so I run and walked faster in order to find safety but often lagged behind the rest. I was always tired because we ate very little,” she narrates.

She still remembers the day she arrived at the border and recalls the joy she had while boarding the ‘big’ buses to the reception centre. She also remembers that while receiving a tetanus shot at the centre, the health workers stressed that she urgently needed to visit a health centre to check if she and her baby were doing well.

Luckily for her, Yiinga Health Centre III was not far from where her new home, located in Imvepi refugee settlement, Arua District. Nema adhered to the advice and attended her first antenatal visit at Yiinga Health Centre and later returned for four more visits before delivery.

“I was happy when they told me that my baby was healthy. I was also told to come back many times because the doctors needed to check if the baby was growing properly and advised me to deliver in a hospital and not at home.”

In the settlement, Nema was also assigned a Village Health Team (VHT) member to occasionally visit her and monitor her progress. “I was told to ring the VHT the moment the pains begin so that he can take me to the health centre,” she added. This she did and an ambulance was dispatched to take her to the health facility when the labour pains started.

At exactly 2:00 am on 1 November, Nema gave birth to a baby girl. However, her delivery experience was a difficult one. According to Jane Candiru, the midwife present during the delivery, Nema progressed very slowly despite early arrival at the health facility. When she finally delivered, the baby did not cry, a condition she called Birth Asphyxia. On realising this, Candiru swung into action very quickly to support the new born baby. She resuscitated the baby and in a few minutes the baby was crying, breathing well and even yearning to breastfeeding.

A year ago, Candiru couldn’t have saved this baby. But today, she is confident and knows exactly what to do when she comes in contact with babies born with a similar condition. This she attributes to the knowledge and skills received from the helping babies breathe training supported by UNICEF. The training was conducted by CUAMM, a UNICEF implementing partner, with financial support from SIDA. The beneficiaries of the training are mentored on how to use neonatal resuscitation kits and oxygen cylinders which are utilised to save newborns with difficulty in breathing at birth.

Nema who was worried about her baby at birth, now breastfeeds in the maternity ward as she slowly recovers. “My baby didn’t cry when she came out but now she is eating and also cries. I was worried that she had been affected by the journey and many days we spent in the bushes.”

Her stay at the facility has been delayed to enable health workers monitor the baby’s condition.
Yiinga Health Centre III serves both refugees and nationals from the surrounding villages, receiving an average of 60 to 90 patients a day, majority refugees. The maternity wing alone handles over 100 deliveries a month, with refugees making the largest percentage.

Dr. Puis Akwanga the Incharge of the health facility confirmed that UNICEF through CUAMM also supports nutrition screening of pregnant women and children, provides nutritional supplements for those under weight and is highly involved in developing the capacity of the health workers at this facility and many others in the Arua District to support the delivery of improved health interventions that will save many more babies and mothers.

“My baby has no name yet because it is the father’s responsibility to give her a name. However, given a chance to suggest a name I will choose ‘Agaba’ which means – through the bush,” Nema shares with a big smile. 
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