New Era (Windhoek)

17 February 2014

Namibia: Antenatal Mortalities Rise

Oshakati — The Oshakati Intermediate Hospital has observed an increase in premature births and also deaths linked to stress and alcohol abuse.

Apart from alcohol abuse by stressed expectant mothers, malnutrition is said to be a prime cause of antenatal deaths and the death of newly born babies.

Several families whose joy at the arrival of a newborn quickly suffer grief because the infant loses the fight for life, which has led to concern over the alleged high incidences of premature births and deaths at the intermediate hospital.

Claims of a chronic shortage of neonatal incubators with babies allegedly sharing incubators as a result have also been made.

A mother who delivered her premature baby at the hospital last week told New Era worrying tales of the hospital's maternity wards that are overcrowded with expectant mothers.

"I even saw a nurse run across the hospital from the maternity ward to the other side carrying a newborn to get the infant to an incubator. Just imagine the distance between the maternity ward and the new paediatric section, it's really far, imagine the concern of the mother who had just delivered that baby!" said the source who requested anonymity.

"It is just very sad and scary as you see mothers released from the hospital without their babies when their babies have not made it," said a recent maternity ward patient who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another mother, Maria Paulus, who also delivered a premature baby that had to be admitted to the hospital's Intensive Care Unit due to breathing problems confirmed the alleged dire situation, which she said, is very disconcerting.

"It is the most terrible experience for a mother - everyday you see babies dying. I have been here in the hospital for a week and I have seen other women's babies die, at least five babies have already died since the time I have been here," Paulus narrated.

However, the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital's Acting Superintendent Josephine Agustinus said there are "still more normal births compared to premature births" at the hospital.

Agustinus said her office did not officially record the number of babies born premature and those who have died as a result but maintained that "more normal safe births" were recorded.

She denied allegations of incubator shortages, adding that considering that the premature babies unit is still new and is not fully equipped, it has enough incubators and more are still to come.

"We have no incubator shortage issues here, it should be understood that we have phototherapy incubators for premature babies that need to be kept under heat and these incubators are made in such as way that they can accommodate more than three babies.

We are talking of premature babies that are very tiny and so they fit in there very well.

"Another thing, people need to differentiate between babies and neonatal babies. When we talk of neonatal we talk of babies who were prematurely delivered and weigh far less than a normal baby. These are the babies that die because they don't have a high chance to survive.

"These babies are delivered within four to five months of pregnancy - you can't really expect some of these babies to survive," she explained.

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