Baby in the Kiwoko Hospital NICU

By Debbie Lester, Clinical Programmes and USA Country Director

It was the way he lay: tiny hand in little fist, peace upon his face, tiny hat slightly askew. Lost, because overnight the power went out, and the equipment keeping him alive could not do its job.

It was the look upon her face: pure devastation as the doctor broke to her the news that one of her babies, one of her twin boys, had died because the hospital lacked something as simple as a reliable power source.

It was a defining moment for me in my clinical journey. I had worked in neonatal health for more than a decade by this point, and although in my work in Bermuda and the US I had seen parents’ grief and loss, it was the inequity of services that shocked me to my core. To see babies die from entirely preventable causes because a hospital or clinic lacked basic supplies, equipment, or training, while in high income countries all of the training and tools are at hand was reprehensible to me. So I threw my hat in the ring with countless others around the world to try and address injustice and save maternal and neonatal lives in the developing world.

Fast forward to today, and together with my colleagues at the Adara Group, Kiwoko Hospital, the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and countless others who have joined us on this journey, we have built and developed a world-class neonatal health programme that has saved thousands of maternal and newborn lives. We have learned a lot from our journey, and we are now at the point that we want to share the knowledge and skills we have developed to scale our programme to reach more women and children in need.

So today, we proudly stand with the global community at the United Nations General Assembly and make a public commitment to a fairer, more equitable world for women and newborns through Every Woman Every Child (EWEC), an unprecedented global movement to mobilise governments, multilaterals, the private sector and NGOs to address the major health challenges facing women and children. The movement puts into action the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which presents a roadmap on how to enhance financing, strengthen policy and improve service on the ground for the most vulnerable women and children across the globe.

Over the next three years, Adara has committed to strengthening maternal, newborn and child health services, not just with our partner, Kiwoko Hospital, but in the wider Central Ugandan region, in order to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity. We will do this through holistic program development, high-impact interventions and training programmes, which will work to bridge communities with local health facilities.

The Millennium Development goals have made great strides to save lives. Between 1990 and 2015, the global under-five mortality rate has declined by more than half. But though more children are now making it to their fifth birthday, ccomplication from pre-term birth is still the number one killer of young children. The global community can and must do more to address this vulnerable population, and to ensure every woman, and every child has the opportunity to survive, thrive and transform. Adara is proud to be part of this journey.


The Adara Group commits to strengthening maternal, newborn and child health services in Central Uganda to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity. We will do this through holistic program development, high-impact interventions and training across the continuum of care to bridge tertiary and primary-level services. Adara will reach women and children in need of services in four districts in central Uganda – home to 600,000 people. Adara commits USD $4.5 million from September 2015 to September 2018 to this effort. Adara will use social, behavioural and clinical research to implement this work in order to understand the communities we are working with and to continually evaluate our programme objectives to identify gaps in delivery of health services for women and babies. The interventions outlined in this commitment will be implemented through targeted research, capacity building, programme design and monitoring, and careful introduction of equipment and technology to serve the catchment area of 600,000 people. Through this commitment, Adara also seeks to change the way people think about the role of business in the world and the power of business/non-profit partnerships, by showcasing globally our innovative business-for-purpose model. Adara’s corporate advisory businesses donate 100% of profits to Adara Development. This covers all administration and core support costs, to allow other donors’ funds to be 100% directed towards projects.

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