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News: Newborn mortality rising in Tigray’s Seharti Samre district, officials urge nutritional food supplies

Health worker attending to a newborn baby, in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mai Tsebri Primary Hospital (Photo:UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/Demissew Bizuwerk)

By Mihret G Kristos @MercyG_kirstos

Addis Abeba – An alarming increase in newborn mortality rates in Seharti Samre district, located 40km from the capital of the Tigray region. At least 32 newborns have reportedly perished within the past year, according to Tsegay Gidey, the Deputy Head of the district’s health office.

Tsegay informed Addis Standard that, excluding unreported community deaths, data from four local clinics indicate the death rate for both newborns and children under five is on the rise due to malnutrition. 

“Child mortality rates are escalating significantly due to lack of nutrition and medicine. Their deaths, often occurring during clinic follow-ups, are utterly heart-wrenching,” commented Tsegay.

“The most distressing statistic in our district is the number of maltreated newborns,” said Tsegay, adding that among the pregnant women seeking clinic assistance over the past year, a distressing 81% gave birth birth to infants exhibiting a range of abnormalities such as below-average weight, disability, or are stillborn. 

According to Tsegay, prior to the outbreak of war in Tigray, the annual count of maltreated newborns was between six and seven. Post-war, this figure has risen sharply due to an increase in malnutrition and related factors.

A 2022 study conducted by the Tigray Health Research Institute in partnership with the United Nations revealed that maternal mortality rates, which were 186 deaths per 100,000 before the war, have escalated to 840 post-war.

Gebrehaweia G/Kirstos, mother and infant health coordinator at the Tigray Health Bureau, stated, “newborn death rates have been climbing steadily since the war in Tigray. Current research suggests we’re witnessing a regression to levels seen 22 years ago in Tigray.”

He further stressed the dire shortage of medication, saying, “we urgently need nutritional food supplies for infants and expectant mothers who come to our clinics, as well as medicine to treat our patients. If these needs aren’t met, we risk seeing the mortality rate doubling.”

Gebrehaweia attributed the rise in infant deaths to the repercussions of war. The primary hindrances, he pointed out, are the lack of adequate medical treatment, budget, and transportation.

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The Tigray Health Bureau reported in the last two weeks a 28% increase in the number of under-five children succumbing to acute malnutrition between March and April, amid the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the region.

Since the onset of war in Tigray in November 2020, the regional health bureau reports that at least 2,850 children have died in hospitals due to acute malnutrition. Of the total, 230 children passed away post the peace agreement aimed at ending the war, excluding figures from Western and parts of Southern Tigray.

On May 29, Addis Standard reported an upswing in deaths as regional authorities pledged to intensify efforts to conclude an investigation into food aid theft that had resulted in a suspension of humanitarian aid. AS

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