The Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) through the Swedish Embassy in Kampala has given 35 million krona (about Shs14.3billion) for maternal, new born and child health programmes.
According to a press statement by Unicef dated December 16, the support is expected to reach an estimated 135,000 pregnant women and over 300,000 children with key health interventions in West Nile region.
Mr Per Lingärde, the Swedish Ambassador to Uganda while handing over the support at Unicef offices in Kampala said the contribution is part of their efforts to improve maternal and child health by strengthening health service delivery in Uganda, indirectly supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“Unicef plays an important role in supporting the Ministry of Health to end preventable maternal and child deaths across Uganda, so we are proud to further strengthen these efforts,” said Mr Per Lingärde.
The Unicef Representative, Ms Aida Girma, said the West Nile sub-region is among the most disadvantaged areas of Uganda with very poor maternal health indicators. These include low rates of immunisation, high rates of unattended births, limited use of bed nets, and high rates of malaria, diarrhoea and HIV/AIDS.
“And as a result, the region has one of the highest under five mortalities in the country with 125 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to the national average of 90,” said Ms Girma.
Statistics by Unicef indicate that West Nile, along with the Karamoja region, also has the highest child poverty rate in the country with 68 per cent of all children under the age of five living in poverty and being deprived of a number of their most basic needs such as health care, adequate nutrition, safe water, education, and shelter, among others.
Ms Girma, said West Nile sub-region currently hosts over 600,000 refugees and asylum seekers from South Sudan and DR Congo and that the continuous flow of refugees into the region poses a major challenge for district social service systems as they lack both human and material resources to meet the needs of the increasing population.
“Nearly 340,000 refugees from South Sudan have arrived since July and we expect at least 300,000 more to arrive in 2017. These funds therefore come at a critical time and will help to save children’s and mother’s lives, both from within the South Sudanese refugee community as well as within the local communities that are hosting them across West Nile,” Ms Girma said.
Since 2013, SIDA has contributed $3million to support a similar programme in Karamoja which helped more than 22,000 pregnant women deliver their babies in health facilities; provided 68 health facilities with emergency equipment; and trained 162 health workers to manage maternal and new-born conditions related to pregnancy and child birth.