Government to expand spina bifida and hydrocephalus treatment to more regional referral hospitals

The Ugandan government, through the Ministry of Health, said it was working on an arrangement to make spina bifida and hydrocephalus treatment and surgeries available at all regional referral hospitals, at the exception of the three known health facilities nationwide.

At the event held in Kampala to commemorate World Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Day, Dr. Charles Olaro, Director of Curative Services at the Ministry of Health, noted that currently his national referral hospital in Mulago , its Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital and its Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Case Hospital but plans are underway to expand services regionally.

“Mothers planning to get pregnant should take folic acid at least once a week or when you miss your period you should take folic acid as many wait a full month to confirm they are pregnant, but at that time the defect would have already formed on the 28th day of conception,” Dr. Olaro said.

Olaro noted that the government is also pushing for a food fortification law where they must add folic acid and micronutrients in wheat flour and corn kernels. The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) is mandated to enforce these standards.

Ruth Nalujja, National Coordinator of the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Uganda (SHAU) called for the social inclusion of children with spina bifida as one of the ways to reduce the stigma they face in because of their state of health.

“Social inclusion is very difficult because they face stigma, so many people have been left out, environmental accessibility has become a very big challenge. They don’t have access to clean water, soap and lack of access to sanitation facilities, which has increased the number of school dropouts,” she added.

Ruth Nalujja, National SHAU Coordinator

World Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Day is commemorated every October 25 and this year’s event was held under the theme “A call for national action to reduce the prevalence of birth defects through food fortification”. ; folic acid supplementation and dietary diversity in the country.

Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord do not form properly, as hydrocephalus is a condition in which a person has excess fluid in the head resulting in an oversized head.

It is estimated that around 600 to 800 children in Uganda are born with spina bifida each year, while 3600 to 5400 are born with hydrocephalus.

Children and their families face a lifelong struggle with ill health, disability and stigma, often with little or no support from family, community or the health system.

Studies show that micronutrient deficiencies, including lack of vitamin B9 (folic acid), vitamin A and iron, in mothers during the first 28 days of conception contribute up to 70% to the risk of birth defects.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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