Marvin and Martin look shyly at their feet, a little timid in front of the visitors who have filled their small living room.
Their sister Mildred is much bolder, and confidently answers our question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I will be a doctor,” she declares, without hesitation. “And so will Marvin. Martin wants to be a pilot!”
Her parents beam at her. The pride they feel for their three young children is so evident. On the coffee table they have strewn photos from the past 12 years – rare and coveted keepsakes in Uganda. As Marvin and Martin become a bit more confident they point out photos of themselves as babies, celebrating birthday parties, starting school, attending weddings and other milestones.
These happy and much-loved kids probably have very little idea just how grateful their parents are to see them grow into such healthy and big-hearted children.
Tragically, before they welcomed Martin, Marvin and Mildred into the world, Ben and Justine experienced a great heartbreak when their first pregnancy ended in miscarriage about halfway through. Justine was pregnant with twins.
When the couple found out a year later that Justine was again pregnant with twins, they were overjoyed. But they also feared the same tragedy might strike again. Thankfully, the staff at Kiwoko Hospital took the family under their wing, carefully monitoring the pregnancy every step of the way.
At 30 weeks’ pregnancy, during a regular check-up, the couple received some exciting news from the doctor: they were not expecting twins but triplets. And any day!
Finding out you are having a multiple preterm birth is an overwhelming and sometimes scary experience anywhere in the world, but even more so in a country like Uganda. There, 12,500 children under 5 die each year from direct preterm complications.
“I first felt so much fear,” Justine reveals. “But the staff at Kiwoko comforted me, loved me, and made me feel free and supported. Then I felt confident.”
Ben and Justine were lucky. They lived in a community that not only had a hospital with dedicated and well-trained staff but also, remarkably, a NICU to provide top care for premature or sick babies.
The newborn health programme at Kiwoko Hospital is one of Adara’s flagship programmes. We have taken a holistic approach to neonatal health in the Kiwoko NICU. We combine brilliant local staff with regular staff training and development workshops. This is provided both locally and through specialists from our international medical volunteer (IMED) programme. We have also worked hard to ensure the NICU has the equipment, supplies and medications needed, through a careful procurement process, as well as clinical engineers to make sure all equipment is maintained and working.
Thankfully, due to the excellent services and staff at the hospital, Marvin, Mildred and Martin arrived safely. It was a huge milestone for Adara and Kiwoko, as they were just the second set of triplets to survive at the hospital, a huge feat as giving birth to multiples is considered a high risk for both mother and baby. This successful delivery of multiple babies was the first of thousands. Last year alone, the NICU cared for 100 sets of twins and three sets of triplets.
The NICU now cares for more than 1,000 babies every year, and rates of survival have only increased. In fact, for low-birthweight babies, the rate of survival has increased from 61% to 90% since 2005.
Meeting these amazing kids makes clear the importance of saving every life we can. Martin, Mildred and Marvin are three healthy, vibrant kids, full of dreams and potential. The hope for Uganda’s future is bright.