* Spina bifida and hydrocephalus cases are increasing with an estimate of 13% from last year
* Due to delays in seeking medical help for patients with fever of 38°C or higher (febrile illness) in children and premature births
* Spina bifida is a condition that affects the spine and is usually apparent at birth
By Petro Mkandawire, Correspondent
A study by Child Help, a non-governmental organisation which works in liaison with Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, there is a rise in cases of spinal defects called spina bifida and hydrocephalus in newly-born children.
In an interview, Child Help Executive Director,Blessings Chapweteka said currently spina bifida and hydrocephalus cases are increasing with an estimate of 13% from last year due to delays in seeking medical help for patients with fever of 38°C or higher (febrile illness) in children and premature births.
It is also prevalent in expectant mothers during birth who lacked what is called folic acid — a type of acid which is released by expectant mothers, who lack of awareness on importance of taking this folic acid before conceiving.
According to Wikipedia, spina bifida is a condition that affects the spine and is usually apparent at birth. It is a type of neural tube defect (NTD) and can happen anywhere along the spine if the neural tube does not close all the way.
Many babies born with spina bifida get hydrocephalus, often called water on the brain which causes the head to swell due to extra fluid in and around the body.
Chapweteka said they estimate an increase of around 13% from last year and total number of both conditions is between 2,500 and 5,000 in last year and as of now they are running 3,000 to 6,000 which is a higher increase rate.
“Hydrocephalus is at rise due to prevalence of neonatal meningitis, prematurity, delays in seeking medical help for febrile illness in children,” he said.
Wikipedia describes neonatal meningitis as the inflammation of the meninges during the first 28 days of life and according to the time of diagnosis, it is classified as early-on-set or late onset meningitis.
In early-on-set meningitis, clinical features appear during the first weeks of life.
Chapweteka adds that they are distributing a folic acid tablet to expectant mothers, which reduces the risk of spina bifida at birth as well as training health and community care workers in campaign awareness reduce rising cases of spina bifida and hydrocephalus.
He further said they are facing a lot of challenges when dealing with these diseases — such as non compliance of medical follow up, late presentation of patients to the hospital, lack of national guidelines on treating these conditions and inadequate resources to implement all activities.
“We are also appealing to individuals and organization who might be willing to assist these children because, on our own, we can’t manage to control these diseases,” he said.
When contacted, public relation officer for Ministry of Health, Adrian Chikumbe said he needed to consult first.