Health authorities in Gulu district have raised concern over the high number of perinatal deaths commonly known asstillbirths over the past twelve months. A stillbirth is the death of a fetus weighing 500g or more or of 22-week’s gestation or more. Records from Gulu District Health Department indicate that 509 newborn babies died in different health facilities in the District in 2020.
St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor registered the highest number with 284 deaths followed by Gulu Regional Referral Hospital with 172 children, Awach Health Centre IV 6 while Labwor-Omor Health Centre III registered 3 deaths. Romanson Elvis Okello, a Biostatistician in the Gulu District Health Department disclosed in a recent interview with Uganda Radio Network that 50% of the deaths were not reviewed due to lack of data.
Birth trauma accounted for 34% of the total deaths followed by intrauterine at 22%, asphyxia 12.3%, respiratory distress syndrome 8.3%, septicemia 7.4% and severe malaria 4.7%. Grace Anena, the Officer In charge of Maternal Health in Gulu District, says that the District is still battling with poor antenatal care attendance, which explains the high death rates.
She further explained that most of the mothers do not turn up for medics to assess their condition and their babies after the delivery, which makes it difficult to help in case of complications.
Antenatal care in the District stands at 47% with a section of the mothers reportedly still delivering at home. Jennet Anena is a 32-year-old mother of five children from Koro Sub County in Omoro District, who gave birth to a premature. She blames the problem on lack of support from the family.
Anena revealed that she only attended one antenatal visit after her six months of pregnancy and developed complications that led to premature birth. Dr. Baifa Arwenyo, the in charge of the Gynecology Ward at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital has encouraged the men to accompany their wives for antenatal care and delivery.
While Uganda has reportedly reduced maternal deaths from 438 per every 100.000 live births to 336 in 2019, the newborn deaths in the country still stands at 43 children per 1,000 live births.