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We should strive to tame child mortality



We should strive to tame child mortality

According to a recent study done by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), the rate of children dying under the age of five still remains high in parts of the country.

A number of factors contribute to infant mortality, including lack of equipment, staff, respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea, and malnutrition.

A study of 24 hospitals in Kenya found that deaths of children within seven days after surgery are 200 times more than in the developed world. This is caused by a lack of basic surgery equipment and an acute shortage of paediatric surgeons.

In children’s wards in 13 lower-level facilities in Embakasi and Lang’ata in Nairobi County and K’ombewa in Kisumu County, there is a lack of crucial equipment such as surgery lights and burnout among health workers.

According to Kemri, children who contract respiratory tract infections, particularly pneumonia, often succumb to it. A study found that parents fail to take children to the hospital when they fall ill. This causes the conditions to worsen and subsequently leads to the children’s death.

Diarrhoea often leads to dehydration if left untreated. This can lead to death. Insufficient or lack of breastfeeding as well as insufficient nutrients lead to stunted growth and even death.

Prof Rachel Musoke, a professor of neonatal health at the University of Nairobi paediatric department, gives a few reasons why children below 28 days find it difficult to survive. She says at the age bracket (0-28) days, it is difficult for such a newborn to regulate their own body temperature hence they lose all the water through the skin and die of dehydration.

She continues that brain damage, sharing of a cot and lack of healthcare officers also contribute to infant mortality. According to data seen by Healthy Nation, the ward had a bed occupancy of up to 210 per cent between January to July 2018.

For children in intensive care, there ought to be one nurse monitoring one child, while the other children who are critically ill or who do not need assistance to breathe require a nurse for every four children.

This is not the case in most of Kenya’s hospitals. For example, at Kenyatta National Hospital, sometimes it is one nurse per 30 babies. 

A study by Kemri Welcome Trust indicated that in most hospitals in Kenya, nurses are not only overworked but they take up jobs belonging to other specialists and ones they are ill-equipped to handle such as the roles of nutritionists and clinicians.

Both national and county governments should strengthen universal health coverage since it will ensure newborns get access to the health services they need, without facing financial hardship.

Failure to act on this means more lives of newborns are going to be lost resulting in a negative impact on families.

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