Uganda gets boost to fight new born infections

By Paul Watala

75% of the infections come from dirty hands that affect the babies at the time of birth. It is estimated that 142,000 children die before making five years every year and 4 out of 10 die before their first birthday.

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Uganda has received 5.2m pounds (about sh25b) grant from European Developing Countries Trials Partnership (EDCTP) to take lead in the study to halt new born death infections in sub Sahara Africa using locally produced sugar products.

The revelation was made on Monday by the Executive director and lead investigator from Sanyu Africa Research Institute James Ditai during a press briefing at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital.

Ditai said the study based in Uganda into reducing new born deaths and infections in developing countries in Africa will also encourage use of life-saving hygiene gel made from locally grown sugar canes in Uganda.

He said that baby gel will test whether the use of sterilizing hand gel in the community can prevent infections in new born babies.

“The bay gel study is a large, randomized trial that will show whether washing the hands of the careers with the alcohol-based hand rub also prevents infections in newborns,” Ditai said

“If it can, then we will be looking to including it in the delivery packs for every expectant mother and it will be distributed freely. No mother should lose their babies to preventable illnesses” he added.

He noted that the project will take place in Mbale district in the next five years run by Sanyu Africa Research Institute doctors in Uganda in collaboration with the tropical clinical trials unit of Liverpool school of tropical medicine in United Kingdom.

He said the university of Bergen will provide postgraduate training through their global health department, while doctors from Makerere University, the Ugandan Ministry of Health, Mbale Hospital, the University of Exeter and Busitema University will provide experts input.

“The project is led by professor Andrew Weeks from the University of Liverpool and brings together clinical trialists in the United Kingdom, Uganda and Norway, ” he added.

“Trying to find ways to prevent infections in homes is very difficult. Research, policy makers and advocates have put latrines and low cost-hand washing jerrycans into many villages, but found that are rarely used” Prof. Andrew Weeks said.

“Alcohol-based hand rub however is cheap, highly effective and can be made locally in Uganda from sugar cane. Women love it for the effect it has on their hands it has proved to be very popular”, he added.

Doctor Martin Chebet specialist in children noted that in poorer parts of rural Africa, there is very little sanitation in homes, adding that few flushable toilets or hand washing facilities hence infection spread very easily especially to children.

He said that this leads high rates of infections in children in sub-Sahara Africa, one in 12 children will die before their 5th birthday, with infections as the most common cause.

Chebet said that in Uganda one of twenty the children die before his or her first birthday and one out of sixteen do not survive to his or her fifth birthday. 42% of under 5 mortality occurs during the neonatal period.

He said that 75% of the infections came from dirty hands that affect the babies at the time of birth, adding that it estimated that 142,000 children die before making five years every year and that 4 out of 10 are below one year.