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Kampala, Uganda, 19 August 2020 - The Ministry of Health has officially opened the newly refurbished and equipped Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Kawempe National Referral Hospital in Kampala.

The NICU was fully refurbished and equipped with support from the MTN Uganda Foundation and the official partners of the MTN Kampala Marathon, with technical support from UNFPA.

MTN Uganda, working through UNFPA invested UGX 363,915,250 (approx. USD 99,000) into the Kawempe National Referral Hospital NICU. These funds are the proceeds of the MTN Kampala Marathon that is run with support from partners including Rwenzori, Huawei, New Vision and Stanbic Bank.

With the rapid population growth within the catchment area, Kawempe Hospital has had challenges including congestion in the NICU, as well as lack of up-to-date equipment. The Ministry of Health reached out to partners including UNFPA and MTN Uganda to support with the refurbishment and re-equipping the facility.

“I want to appreciate in a special way the MTN Foundation, UNFPA and UNICEF for partnering with Government to carry out infrastructure improvement, as well as equipping the areas that were critical, notably the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” said Minister of Health Hon. Jane Ruth Aceng.

Minister Jane Ruth Aceng and officials from MTN, Kawempe Hospital,
UNFPA at the official opening of the newly refurbished NICU at Kawempe
Hospital on Thursday 19th August, 2020. 
© Prossy Jonker Nakanjako/UNFPA Uganda

“The only way we can pay our partners back is to work hard and use the facility well to ensure that babies don't die. Just saying thank you to them is not enough. What they want to see is no more pictures of babies posted on social media or the stories we keep on hearing about mothers and children dying in labour,” she added.

Wim Vanhelleputte, the Chief Executive Officer, MTN Uganda said that MTN Uganda is concerned about the high maternal and child mortality rate in the country and is committed to supporting Government to change the narrative.

With proceeds from MTN Kampala marathon that is run every year, for the last sixteen years, MTN has supported various causes ranging from providing safe water to water stressed areas in Uganda to providing sanitation facilities in schools, among many interventions.

In the last three years however, maternal and child health have headlined the MTN Kampala Marathon with all the proceeds going towards complementing the Government of Uganda’s efforts towards maternal health.

MTN Foundation allocated a total of UGX 1.33 billion (approx. USD 362,260) for the refurbishment of the women and children’s wards in five health facilities across the country. Kawempe NICU is one of them. The funds are being used for the refurbishment and equipping of theatres and maternal wards across the five health centers. Works in Muyembe HC IV in Bulambuli district have also been completed. The other three health centers that have benefitted from the MTN Marathon proceeds are: Pakwach HC IV in Pakwach district, Kalangala HC IV in Kalangala district, and Karugutu HC IV in Ntoroko district.

With an annual population growth rate of 3 percent, according to the Uganda Health and Demographic Survey (UDHS) 2016, Hon. Aceng noted that nearly one third of all the births in Kampala take place in Kawempe Hospital.

“When we went through the statistics, the majority of people who are delivering here are young girls as young as age 15. We are not talking to the young girls, the rate of teenage pregnancy continues to go up and it will be worse at the end of Corona because schools have been closed.”

Hon. Aceng commended the work of the Director of Kawempe Hospital, Dr. Nehemiah Katusiime and his team and appealed to them to pay keen attention to all the mothers and the neonates.

“I know the workload of the neonates alone is high, but we can address this if we focus on educating our mothers, and especially in this area, on family planning.”

 For Mr. Alain Sibenaler, the UNFPA Representative in Uganda, this was a historic occasion.

“On behalf of UNFPA, it gives me great joy to witness yet another memorable occasion when we see fruits of a great partnership between UNFPA, MTN Foundation, and the Ministry of Health.”

UNFPA takes pride in engaging in this kind of partnerships that create shared opportunities, while leveraging each other’s added value to actualize interventions to achieve universal sexual reproductive health and rights, reduce maternal death, and improve the lives of women and girls,” said Mr. Sibenaler.

By Prossy Jonker Nakanjako