File photo: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
File photo: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Call for greater focus on neonatal services after newborn dies from Covid-19

By Yolisa Tswanya Time of article published May 22, 2020

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Cape Town – Maternal and neonatal health partners have called for a greater focus on the sector as South Africa recorded its first neonatal Covid-19 death.

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize said a two-day-old baby, born prematurely, died on Wednesday. He said the baby had lung difficulties which required ventilation support.

“The mother had tested positive for Covid-19 and the child subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 as well. It is important to appreciate the complexities of the underlying condition of prematurity. 

"We extend a special word of comfort to the mother of this child and salute the neonatologists, nurses and all allied and technical personnel who had the difficult task of caring for the neonate to the end.”

A paediatrician and researcher at the SA Medical Research Council, Professor Ameena Goga, said the available data “does seem to suggest that there is no transmission from mother to baby in utero and that children are not as affected”.

She added: “There needs to be a prioritisation of essential and quality sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health services during the current global crisis. Covid-19 preparedness plans and interventions should not compromise these."

SA Breastmilk Reserve executive director Staa Jordan said essential maternal and neonatal services had been developed through great effort over the past two decades, and the gains should not be lost in the context of the pandemic.

“World Breastmilk Donation Day, observed on Tuesday, reminds us of the critical role breastfeeding plays in promoting maternal and neonatal health," Jordan said.

"It is only through the continued commitment to lactation support for all mothers that human milk banks can assist infants who do not have access to their mothers' own milk.”

Cape Times

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