Thursday, November 4, 2010

Birth defects are increasing in Uganda

From New Vision in Uganda:

The number of children born in Uganda with head defects is on the increase, parliamentarians heard last week.

“It is estimated that over 2,000 children in Uganda suffer from spina bifida and hydrocephalus annually yet few get treatment,” Lieven Bauwens, a secretary general for the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, told the parliamentary forum on children.

Spina bifida is a condition that occurs in the first month of pregnancy, where one or more of the bones that make the spine do not form correctly.

Most children with spina bifida also develop hydrocephalus, a condition characterised by an abnormal increase in the amount of fluid in the cranium, causing enlargement of the head and deterioration of the brain.

It was also noted that about a 100 children were found to have the two defects at Mulago Hospital per year, according to Dr. Joel Kiryabwire, a neurosurgeon at the hospital.

Suleiman Madada, the Minister for the Elderly and the Disabled, pointed out that many people in Uganda are not aware that the defects can be treated or prevented. “Some people think that children with big heads are bewitched, so we need to create awareness through the media, inter ministerial partnership and telecommunication companies.”

According to Dr. William Ssali, a consultant in the health ministry, the defects can be prevented by taking a lot of folic acid which can be found in foods such as cabbage, soya, beans, mushrooms, avocados, mangoes, maize, cassava and fresh vegetables, among others.

He also recommended fortification of food, a process of adding vitamins to food.

MPs suggested that the issue be integrated in the next national census to establish how to implement strategies of addressing the problem. They also agreed to form village health teams to create awareness about the defects.