Government says the deaths of mothers from birth-related complications are not going down. This is worrying given that 16 Ugandan mothers die every day while giving birth.
In Lira alone, White Ribbon Alliance, an NGO, says in a research conducted last October that 184 new-born babies and six mothers died in only six months.
Death rates among Uganda’s children under five years only declined from 186 deaths per 1000 in 1990s to 135 in 2008. This means Uganda’s chances are slim in meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) 4 of reducing deaths among children less than 5 years to 131 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015.
Counting the deaths is not enough. Ugandans ought to find answers to questions about the country’s broken emergency life-saving services for new-born babies and pregnant mothers.
A first step would be to carry out a countrywide child and maternal health audit. As junior minister Elioda Tumwesigye says, Uganda’s health centres require to be financed enough to promote safe motherhood, infant health and nutrition.
The health and population agencies need to consistently address challenges of few health workers, lack of equipment in the health facilities, lack of awareness and pre-conceived ideas about family planning, and lack of emergency obstetrics care.
Government’s family planning agencies should focus on widely and easily accessible family planning solutions to undercut Uganda’s high fertility rate. Here, the crisis is that the more children a woman bears; the higher her risks of her poor healing and developing childbirth-related complications, including haemorrhage and death.
The above would save Uganda’s health centres and hospitals from becoming places of last resort for pregnant mothers. Lira District’s move to renovate the non-functional theatres and recruit more staff at health centre IVs is commendable but sufficient funds should be allocated to equip similar rural health centres to carry out caesarean section and blood transfusion for mothers.
The traditional birth attendants and the village health teams remain relevant options for inaccessible health centres and their skills for mothers who still deliver at home in rural Uganda are invaluable.
Government should prioritise access roads, ensure health workers are trained, facilitated and made easily accessible to guarantee safe motherhood.