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Photo via Anadolu Agency

 

Government officials and experts have shown concern at the rising cases of teenage pregnancies in the landlocked East African country of Uganda during the COVID-related restrictions.

Education officer Nelson Ayo claimed that over 90,000 girls under 18 have got pregnant during this period when they were not going to school.

Education Minister Janet Museveni urged parents to guard their daughters. “I will not get tired of reminding you (parents) to always keep an eye on your children so that they do not get pregnant during this lockdown,” she said.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, primary teacher Rachael Bakalikwir, who resides in Natayigirwa village in Luuka district, 180 kilometers (111 miles) from the capital Kampala, said since the COVID-19 enforced lockdown, it has become a normal sight in the region to see teenage pregnant girls.

“Since lockdown, children stopped going to school. They became redundant and started misbehaving leading to many of the girls becoming pregnant,” she said.

She added that in that village, and neighboring villages it is normal to see 14- or 15-year-old girls pregnant.

Hamuza Lubale, a district children welfare officer, said he has so far recorded 770 pregnancies of children below 18 years in the district. But he said there may be many more in rural areas which have not been recorded.

Livingstone Naitema, a retired headmaster, urged the government to reopen schools so that students will get engaged.

“Few girls have been impregnated by fellow students, but the majority ones have been exploited by mature men in the villages especially those who work in sugar plantations,” he said.

Reports said the phenomenon is not limited to Luuka, alone but has spread across all the 144 districts in the country.

Jonana Kandwanaho, who heads the country’s national planning authority, said these pregnancies will become a burden on the nation in the nearby future. He also said that schools should reopen soon to allow children to return to an organized environment to keep them safe.

A recent survey by Twaweza, an NGO which promotes education countrywide, said at least 80% of Ugandans are worried about teenage pregnancy at epidemic proportions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Richard Mugahi, an assistant commissioner of reproductive and infant health at the Health Ministry, also described teenage pregnancies as a big challenge. He said girls are better and safer in schools. - Godfrey Olukya, Anadolu Agency

 

The Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) has arrested two doctors of Baho International Hospital as part of ongoing investigations into the death of a female patient on Thursday, September 9.

“RIB has arrested Dr. Gaspard Ntahonkiriye (Gynecologist) and Dr. Alfred Mugemanshuro (Anesthesiologist) from BAHO International Hospital as part of the ongoing investigation into the death of a female patient (54 years-old) who died on 09 September, 2021. Findings of this investigation will be communicated later,” Thierry Murangira, the Spokesperson of RIB told The New Times.

Murangira declined to reveal more details about the deceased and the situation in which she died, saying “it might hamper investigation.”

However, on Thursday, via their Twitter account, Baho International Hospital commented about the death of a female patient – a one Chantal, sending their condolences to her family, and informing the public that the case is being investigated by a competent authority.

“Baho International Hospital would like to present its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Chantal. May her soul rest in peace. The case is under investigation by a competent authority, we shall let you know further outcome,” read the comment.

About two months ago, the Ministry of Health launched a brief investigation on the private hospital after several people took to social media to complain about it.

The issues raised by the public included those related to poor hygiene at the hospital’s premises, at least one case of misdiagnosis, and poor customer care.

Days later, the management of the hospital came out and apologised to patients who had received poor services from it, and promised to do better.

“We would like to express our sincere apology to the public and especially our patients whom we have let down recently in customer care,” read a letter from the hospital, signed by Joseph Kayibanda, the Hospital Chairperson.

“BIH remains committed to implementing the necessary steps to ensure that all patients and customers are taken care of to the highest degree of excellence and in line with the development of Rwanda’s the health sector,” it added. - Hudson Kuteesa, The New Times

Photo courtesy Babylon

 

Digital health chatbot Babylon is expanding its work in Rwanda, aiming to make it easier for folks who don’t have a cell phone number to access its health services. 

The company is broadening its work with Rwanda’s National ID Agency (NIDA) in order to help patients register and access medical appointments. 

Previously, only individuals with a cellphone could register for Babylon’s local service, called Babyl, by entering their mobile phone using their National ID number. However, individuals without phones weren’t able to complete the process. The new deal will let Rwandans use any shared digital or analog device to register, have a digital consultation with a clinician, and get a prescription by entering their national ID. 

Babylon has been working in Rwanda since 2016. In March 2020, the company signed a 10-year partnership with the Rwandan government giving every person over the age of 12 access to digital health consultations. The company now boasts that over 30% of adults in Rwanda have registered with Babyl. 

WHY IT MATTERS 

While Rwanda's smartphone use has been rapidly growing over the last decade, it is still far from universal. According to Statista, there are around 76 mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 Rwandans in 2019.

“I’m proud that Babylon has been able to remove another barrier to healthcare for Rwandans, especially for women,” Babyl managing director Shivon Byamukama said in a statement.

“We’re committed to working with the government and relevant authorities, such as NIDA, to continually improve and innovate Rwanda's healthcare system as they become one of most advanced countries for digital health. This important change brings us one step closer to our mission of putting high-quality accessible and affordable healthcare in the hands of every person on Earth.”

THE LARGER TREND

U.K.-based Babylon recently announced its plans to go public via a $4.2 billion SPAC merger with Alkuri Global Acquisition. The company has a long history of venture interest. In 2019, it scored a whopping $550 million Series C  funding led by the Saudi Arabian crown prince. Just a year later it raked in $100 million in a convertible loan led by Swedish venture fund VNV Global. 

While the company got its start in the U.K., it has been expanding into new markets. In 2020, it launched its chatbot service in the U.S. The company has also worked in Canada. It officially launched its service Babylon by Telus in 2019. Since then it sold off its Canadian operation to partner Telus in a licensing deal worth roughly $70 million. - Laura Lovett, MobiHealthNews

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