Child health in Uganda has over the years been threatened by a number of factors including attacks from preventable diseases and morbidity caused by poor nutrition that has ravaged some regions like Karamoja with 84 percent of the people unable to afford a nutritious daily diet, among others.
Globally, 8.2 million children under 5 years of age die each year, and more than 40% of these are neonatal deaths (occurring before 30 days of life) according to the 2019 Demographic and Health Surveys on the Trends and Determinants of Neonatal Mortality in Uganda.
Furthermore, in Uganda alone, 1 child in every 16 does not survive to their fifth birthday, and neonatal deaths account for 42% of the under-5 deaths according to UBOS and ICF 2018 report.
Data from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Maternal and New-born Health Disparities in Uganda shows that the country’s neonatal mortality rate (NMR) was 19 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015.
Immunisation has been proven to be a key element in ensuring good child health. The Ministry of Health’s Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization (UNEPI) notes that “immunisation is among the most successful and cost effective public health interventions in preventing a child from dying before celebrating their first birthday.”
The goal of the programme is to ensure that every child and high-risk group is fully vaccinated with high quality and effective vaccines against the target diseases according to recommended strategies. Among others, the diseases that are immunised against include; Tuberculosis, Measles, Neonatal Tetanus and Diphtheria.
The latest Global Health Estimates from World Health Organisation show that three quarters of children and young adolescents aged 0−14 are dying from communicable, perinatal and nutritional conditions.
Thus, in October 2019, the government, through the Ministry of Health, launched a countrywide immunisation campaign against Measles-Rubella and Polio disease.
The World Health Organisation notes that Rubella may cause serious consequences among pregnant women such as miscarriages, still births among others. As such, the Measles-Rubella vaccine was also introduced in the routine immunisation program to replace the single dose measles vaccine.
Integrated Child Health Days
To promote neonatal and child health, the Ministry of Health introduced the Integrated Child Health days. Through this program, a package of comprehensive basic health services is delivered to children and pregnant women.
The services provided during the Integrated Child Health days of October 2020 included; Immunization, de-worming, Vitamin A supplementation, Family planning services and general health education among others.
Sr. Allen Nakanyike, a midwife at Komamboga Health Center III revealed that Integrated Child Health Days are important because mothers and children who are unable to access the health centres are reached out to in their localities.
“We use ICHDs to explain to all the mothers the different services available that are essential to helping their children grow and thrive,” she added.
The vaccines used during Integrated Child Health Days are safe, effective and free – approved by the Ministry of health and the World Health Organization.
Dr Diana Atwine, the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary and Henry Mwebesa, the Director General Health Services, this year embarked on a vaccination exercise in communities against Cholera; the most recent being in Inde Town Council in Madi Okollo District and this was targeting people under 15 years of age.
One of the development objectives of the Uganda Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health Services Improvement Project (URMCHIP) is to improve utilization of essential health services with a focus on Reproductive, Maternal, New born, Child, and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) services.
It should be recalled that the Ministry of Health, together with its partners, UNICEF Uganda and the Embassy of Sweden have since 2017, been focusing on improving Reproductive, Maternal, New-born, Child and Adolescent Health services in West Nile.
Their recent intervention was procuring ambulances to help in the timely referrals and transportation of women and children with complications.
The URMCHIP is a grant facility received from the Global Financing Facility under the World Bank; with an aim of promoting the above health services in Uganda