The Volta Region is recording a swelling in the number of cases of neonatal jaundice.
The disturbing trend, which is increasing by the hundreds each year, has been a concern for stakeholders in the Region.
A total of 1,238 cases were recorded in 2022; 997 in 2021, 879 in 2020, and 720 cases recorded in 2019.
A lead pediatrician in the Region, Dr. Edem Sarbah made the disclosure when he delivered the keynote address at the launch of the 2023 Newborn Jaundice Awareness Month Celebration of the Ho Teaching Hospital.
He said the figures were expected to represent less than the actual situation as cases were under-reported.
Neonatal Jaundice is a childbirth dilemma caused by the buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream of the baby who develops yellowish skin and eyes, and gradually loses motor and sensor responses as toxic bilirubin makes its way toward the brain, where it could trigger paralysis or death.
Dr Sarbah said the disease affected more pre-term babies with a score of eight out of 10, while six out of 10 full-term babies were affected worldwide.
He said although most newborn jaundice occurs on its own, underlying conditions could also include infections, prematurity, and incompatibility of red blood cells between mother and child.
Dr. Sarbah added that naphthalene balls had been discovered to be a cause of the disease and should be discouraged in the newborn’s vicinity.
Sharing danger signs of the disease, he said, “Jaundice noticed within the first 24 hours of life suggests that the jaundice is very severe, and this baby needs urgent care.
“If a newborn with jaundice is not suckling well, has a weak cry or has an abnormal movement, it suggests a progression of the disease to affect the brain. This can be prevented by early detection.”
He said it was important to disabuse myths surrounding the disease, but rather seek prompt health intervention, adding that the disease in newborns evaded prevention and thus early detection, identifying groups at risk, and the avoidance of potential causal agents counted as crucial.
Dr. Sarbah said the disease threatened the joy of childbirth in all families, and therefore, all must come on board to end its dominance.
“I call upon each one of you to join us in this noble cause. Educate yourself, spread the word, and actively participate in the activities and programmes we have planned for this campaign. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of countless families and children.”
Dr. Richard Danyoh, Acting Head of Pediatric and Allied Health at the Ho Teaching Hospital, said close to 1000 cases of neonatal jaundice had been recorded at the facility in the past four years, and that the data showed that the majority were males who recorded within three to five days of birth.
He said about 75 per cent of the cases were due to the physiological cause of liver underdevelopment, and that vigilance by parents and caregivers remained crucial.
Dr. Danyoh said a total of 36 health facilities from across the Region referred neonatal jaundice cases to the teaching hospital, and that the top 10 facilities that recorded the incidents had been singled out and should be a point of focus.
These facilities are Municipal and Districts hospitals in Adidome, Sogakope, and Ho, as well as the Royal Hospital in Ho, and the Peki Government Hospital.
The rest include the Keta Municipal Hospital, the St. Anthony’s Hospital at Dzodze, and the Wora Wora Hospital.
The Acting Head of Pediatrics said the disease contributed to 69 per cent of newborn admissions at the Teaching Hospital, and that a total of 946 photography treatments had been administered during the four-year period with a maximum of 10 days ward stay for full terms babies.
He said the hospital required more equipment and logistics in addition to increased staff strength, and increased space for care and collaboration.
Dr Danyoh revealed at the event that the teaching hospital did not have a single transcutaneous bilirubin (TCB) device for detecting the disease in newborns even though it remained the number one cause of disability among children.
He said extended hospital stay was expensive amidst the socioeconomic impact, while psychosocial impact also weighed on families, and that it was time for stakeholders to reform neonatal care to address newborn jaundice.
Mama Afiakuma III, Queenmother of Ve Traditional area who chaired the launch, shared personal experience with the condition and said the nation risked losing its future leaders to its prevalence.
“It is for all of us to go out there and create awareness,” she said, adding that female traditional leaders in her area had taken up media sensitization.
Stakeholders at the launch took a pledge to join the fight against the disease, while activities planned to mark the awareness month include media education, stakeholder engagements, a jaundice awareness walk in Ho, and visits to religious groups and organizations.
This year’s awareness celebration is on the theme “Spot the Yellow. Stop the disability and death.”
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