By RAYMOND BAGUMA
THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has released the first-ever list of recommended medicines that countries, including Uganda, should use to prevent maternal and child deaths.
The list was compiled by experts in maternal and child health who analysed the essential medicines and latest treatment guidelines.
The drugs will prevent conditions like severe bleeding, which is the leading cause of maternal mortality. Others will treat infections, high blood pressure, sexually transmitted infections and prevent premature births.
In children, the drugs will treat pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, as well as paediatric anti-retrovirals.
Medicines appropriate for children are often not available, partly because of a lack of awareness that children need different drugs from adults.
As a result, health workers are forced to prescribe medicines intended for adults.
Tablets are crushed in small portions and dissolved into unpalatable drinks that are difficult for children to swallow and are potentially ineffective, toxic or harmful.
It is recommended that wherever possible, medicine for children should be provided in doses that are easy to measure and swallow.
Dr. Kenya Mugisha, the director of clinical services, said the health ministry had included the listed medicines on the basic kit for maternal and child health.
The new WHO guidelines for paediatric HIV recommend the use of a fixed-dose combination of lamivudine, nevirapine and zidovudine tablets.
For mothers, azithromycin capsule, cefixime capsule and benzathine benzylpenicillin will be used to treat sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, and syphilis.
Oxytocin and injectable sodium chloride are recommended to prevent bleeding at child birth.
Medicines to prevent pre-eclampsia and eclampsia in mothers include calcium gluconate injection and magnesium sulfate.
To prevent sepsis infection following an abortion or childbirth, the health body has recommended ampicillin, gentamicin and metronidazole injections as well as misoprostol tablets.
The drugs recommended to prevent premature birth are betamethasone injection and nifedipine capsule.
Premature birth, according to the health body, is the leading cause of neonatal deaths both in developed and developing countries, accounting for about 24% of neonatal deaths.
To prevent neonatal sepsis in children, WHO recommends the use of ceftriaxone, gentamicin and procaine benzylpenicillin injections.
The world health body has also recommended the use of amoxicillin tablets, ampicillin injection, ceftriaxone injection, gentamicin, oxygen and procaine benzylpenicillin to treat pneumonia.
Pneumonia is responsible for about 1.6 million deaths of children under the age of five.
Oral rehydration salts and zinc tablets are recommended for the treatment of diarrhoea, which kills more than 1.3 million children every year.
For the treatment of malaria, the world health body recommends artemisinin combination therapy and artesunate.
Vitamin A deficiency is a recognised risk factor for severe measles and it is recommended to administer Vitamin A capsules.
For palliative care and pain relief, it is recommended to use morphine and paracetamol.