Regional pediatricians push for health sector reforms

Pediatricians convening in Kigali for a health symposium have called for reforms in the sector in order to improve the health of new born babies in the East African region.

Pediatricians from Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are meeting in Kigali and are, among other things, seeking for more funding and the use of technologies in order to improve the health of new born babies.

Dr Namala Mukopi, a Pediatrician from Tanzania said that if he would change something in order to improve the health of new-borns, it would be about resource and investment.

For him, things such as drugs that are insufficient, resulting in difficulties in getting appropriate medication for the new-borns.

“If we can’t get the appropriate dose for the children under five years, imagine how difficult it is to get one for the new-borns,” he said.

Mukopi called for more investments in the local pharmaceutical industry.

“Most drugs are imported and as a result, among other challenges our pharmacists have to compound the drugs from adults’ doses to doses for children. Sometimes it is time consuming, or you can fail to get the results that you intend,” he said.

He also said that one of the key challenges to the sector is the skills shortage, which calls for more trainings.

Dr Harriet Ajilong from Uganda said that challenges facing neonatal health in the region are to some extent similar.

“We lack basic equipment including bags and masks especially at lower health centres,” she said.

“Most units are small, and babies, even those who are unstable are forced to stay with mothers in postnatal wards. If we had enough funds that is one of the things we would look into.”

Sharing Rwanda’s experience, Dr Stevenson Musime, a Paediatrician at King Faisal Hospital said the skills shortage a big problem, saying there was need to train not only midwives but also equipping nurses with skills that can help save babies’ lives.

Christine Muwasiya, a Kenya paediatrician decried the low budget allocated to the health sector in her country.

Muwasiya said that 5.4 per cent budgetary allocation given to health is so little, and way-less than the 15 per cent allocation called for during the Abuja Declaration.

Dr Diane Gashumba, the Minister for Health said that while Rwanda has made gains in the public health system, there still challenges of people being reluctant to subscribe to mutuelle de santé – a public health insurance scheme.

This, she said, affected people’s ability to access health services and has implications on the health of new-born babies.

In Rwanda, maternal mortality has been significantly reduced from 1,500 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015.

This is largely due to the fact that 91 per cent of deliveries now take place in health facilities.