Working to save babies and mothers

How passion sparked a commitment to Newborn health at Luwero Hospital

There are many things driving our third AdaraNewborn site – Luwero Hospital’s – commitment to newborn health. But one thing sparked it all: passion. And the origins of that passion can be tied to Steven Magera, Luwero’s former Medical Superintendent.

“Personally, I have experienced the beauty of having a neonatal intensive care unit,” says Steven.

In 2021, his wife went into labour with twins while only 27 weeks pregnant. This led Steven and his wife to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Uganda’s capital. They spent two months there.

“If it were not for the effort of those nurses and midwives in the NICU, maybe I would have come out with no baby,” Steven reflects. “But I ended up coming out with two live twins. So it was a blessing. That is why I really appreciate the work done by Adara and the team to help newborn care in Uganda.”

Now Steven is determined to make quality newborn care more accessible to the people of Luwero.

“At Luwero Hospital, we do have a very busy maternity section,” he says. “We deliver between 250 to 400 mothers a month. And as they say, a lot of those babies – maybe 15% – will require special care, which previously as a hospital we didn’t have.”

Instead Luwero referred small and sick babies to Kiwoko Hospital, 15km down a long, rough dirt road.

“And for every minute you lose, for the baby it counts,” Steven says. “So as a hospital and as a district, we actually decided to move forward by first hiring a paediatrician. And we gave her the task to help us establish a neonatal ICU.”

Steven’s passion was enough to ignite a dream. But now he faced the hard part: bringing it to life. “When we started, of course we had to look for help. We had experienced people in the nearby facilities. Adara was one of the people we contacted,” Steven says.

And so our partnership began in early 2023. To start, we worked with Luwero Hospital to conduct a facility readiness assessment. This marked the first phase of AdaraNewborn implementation. It set the criteria that facilities must meet before our work can progress to the next level. As part of this, we identified gaps in facility infrastructure, ward staffing, and essential equipment and supplies. We also evaluated current clinical skill levels and barriers to quality of care in antenatal, maternity, newborn and postnatal units.

Based on the hospital’s high number of births in the maternity ward, we identified the need for an updated space to care for newborns. The hospital made a new space available and began building an expanded newborn unit. This opened in January 2024. In the hospital’s previous unit, five babies shared a single bed. The new unit is designed to care for up to 20 babies.

With support from our partner, the DAK Foundation, we have equipped the unit with critical lifesaving equipment, including incubators, kangaroo mother care chairs, phototherapy lights and radiant warmers. It has six nurses who we have already begun training and mentoring in newborn care. It also has a committed pediatrician.

We’re also focusing on clinical training and mentorship, strengthening leadership and governance, and implementing quality improvement systems.  

 From our early conversations, Luwero has progressed from a facility without the infrastructure or staff to care for newborns to one well on the way to providing quality newborn care. That’s a direct result of Steven’s passion, the district’s commitment and the success of our AdaraNewborn model.  

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