Pregnant women at Mulago Hospital in Kampala
Pregnant women and new mothers in one of Kampala's Mulago Hospital wards ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

Dozens of babies have died at a government hospital in Uganda's capital Kampala after the closure of Makerere University by President Museveni earlier this month led to a shortage of medical workers at Mulago hospital.

Students from Makerere University started vacating the campus after heavy security was drafted in following Museveni's orders for the university's closure on 1 November, following clashes between police and students, who were protesting a lecturers' strike.

The Ministry of Health on 23 November confirmed that 31 babies have died at Mulago Hospital, which is suffering a shortage of doctors following the withdrawal of 120 postgraduate students − known as senior house officers − following the university's closure. Overall, around 300 students at the university's school of health sciences offer medical services at the hospital.

"Since the withdrawal of senior house officers on November 1, 2016 to date, Mulago has unfortunately lost 31 newborns. These deaths were majorly as a result of severe birth asphyxia and complications associated with prematurity," Sarah Opendi, minister for primary health care, told reporters.

The minister highlighted how the hospital administration had since re-arranged the workforce at the facility, with a special focus on critical areas, like its Special Care Unit and Labour Suite, according to The Monitor.

Opendi denied earlier media reports alleging that at least 15 children were dying per day since the university's closure.

Describing the claims as "baseless and a total misrepresentation of facts", Mulago executive director, Dr Byarugaba Baterana, said: "The postgraduate students are not responsible for the deaths that happen in Mulago but because mothers came late, the unborn babies in the womb die due to lack of oxygen."

Baterana, however, admitted that gaps created by the pull-out of the postgraduate students had led to longer patient waiting hours in the Outpatient Department.

Earlier this week, a team established to probe issues at Makerere University urged Museveni to re-open the institution to allow them to conduct a more-effective investigation.

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye, meanwhile, on 22 November gave the government 10 days to re-open the university or risk a countrywide protest.

Don Wanyama, who heads Museveni's press team, is quoted as saying the president is yet to look into the probe committee's request.