They found malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and injuries were the main childhood conditions for which caregivers sought help. The majority of the respondents said children who had cough or flu were often rushed to a Village Health Team (VHT) member or hospital to rule out COVID-19.
The number of children seeking care for Acute Respiratory Tract
Infections (RTIs) such as pneumonia reduced by 48 per cent at the height of the lockdown
instituted to halt the spread of COVID-19.
This is according to a new study conducted in Wakiso district
between April and September last year, by Makerere University paediatricians. The
researchers sought to establish the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on access to
community health care services for common childhood illnesses among children.
They found malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and injuries were
the main childhood conditions for which caregivers sought help. The majority
of the respondents said children who had cough or flu were often rushed to a
Village Health Team (VHT) member or hospital to rule out COVID-19.
In an interview with URN on Monday, Dr Piloya- Were Theresa, the Principal Investigator said they sampled six health centres and 26 VHTs in addition to reviewing hospital records of the same
period of April to August in 2019.
//Cue in: “What we found…
Cue out…half in reduction.”//
The total number of children seen by VHTs in the Pre- COVID
period was 742 against 683 during the COVID-19 period. When it comes to health
facilities that include Health Centre IIs, IIIs and IVs, the total number of
children seeking care for childhood illnesses increased by 11 per cent, although, Piloya says when it came to those with respiratory
infections, they registered 221 children against 327 received in 2019. When it comes to diarrhoea, she says cases
reduced by 11 per cent in the first few months only to rise again.
//Cue in; “At the facilities…
Cue out…At the VHTs”. //
She attributes the reductions to the implementation of Standard
Operating Procedures (SOPs) such as hand washing and social distancing.
The team of researchers that include experts Sabrina Kitaka and Ministry of Health’s Jesca
Nsungwa say in their recommendations that the Ministry of Health needs to
empower lower-level facilities and plan for them to face pandemics and disease
outbreaks because they are the primary health providers and are key if they are
to decongest referral centres.
However, they note the study was done in a small area and
may not give a true representation of the whole country. The recommend bigger
studies done in rural settings to establish the effect in different settings.