By Carol Natukunda
On Tuesday, Uganda’s 50th Independence anniversary, little Jubilee was the first baby to be born at a medical centre in Kyebando, in Wakiso district.
The Jubilee celebration’s “first baby” was born at 12:44 am to 25-year-old Namukasa. “I am very excited. Her name is Jubilee,” she says.
Baby Jubilee is among the over 3,300 babies born on the day Uganda celebrated the independence golden jubilee countrywide.
Health experts explained that the Golden Jubilee babies born in hospitals were only a drop in the ocean. The majority are born at their homes in rural areas.
With a population growth rate of 3.2% per annum, about 1.2 million babies are born every year, which translates into an average of 3,333 babies per day.
Will the babies survive?
According to statistics, 26% of newborns die in their first month of life, which means about 866 of the jubilee babies will die before 9th November.
Dr. Miriam Sentongo, a senior doctor in the reproductive health division in the ministry of health, says while Uganda’s newborn mortality rate has reduced by 2.2% between 2000 and 2010, the statistics of deaths are still way too high.
In fact, in Kampala, it was reported that at least two of the children who were born on Independence Day died shortly after birth.
“Most newborn deaths occur at home, among the rural poor due to infections resulting from poor hygiene and lack of means to care for the baby.
"Some babies die because they are underweight, or because of birth complications; others succumb to diarrhoea or malaria,” Sentongo said at a recent conference on gynaecology in Uganda.
Pneumonia remains the leading cause of deaths among children followed by premature delivery – or babies who were born before nine months, according to experts.
“We have to prevent the births that come too soon. We need to find ways of ensuring that a baby keeps in the womb for 36 weeks,” Dr. Margaret Nakakeeto, a paediatrician, observes,
She adds that cost effective methods like Kangaroo mother care, which involves holding the premature baby closer to the mother’s chest, would make a difference.
However, Fred Muhumuza, the economic advisor in the finance ministry, affirms that due to government initiatives such as universal primary education, vocational training, entrepreneurship programmes and improved infrastructure, these Jubilee babies will have better education and quality of life than the previous generations.