Wednesday April 6 2011

Government must improve maternal, child health in next five years

The first ever-African Youth Forum held in Kampala from July 17-19, 2010 was a vital component of the African Union Summit. The forum enabled young people to discuss how Africa can improve the maternal and children health development. At the end of the forum, the youth developed a memorandum to African leaders, which was submitted to the leaders during the AU Summit in Kampala in the same month.

Seeing the youth working together for such a noble cause was a sure sign that the next generation is in control and I was happy that I contributed to this cause. Being a self-motivated individual with a passion for fostering change in the lives of people, I did not hesitate when FOWODE approached me to discuss strategies for achieving maternal and child health goals in Africa during a television talkshow. I used the opportunity to discuss how poverty, culture, and lack of education have put women in a powerless position, hindering them from making decisions on how many children one can give birth to, negotiate for safer sex or even access quality services.

In preparation for the talkshow, I researched on Uganda and how it is faring in this aspect and what I found out was quite alarming. Statistics show that Uganda’s population growth is at 3.2 per cent, making it one of the highest in the world. Another fact was that Uganda’s fertility rate is at 6-9 children for every Ugandan mother. What I found most depressing was the fact that for every 100,000 mothers that give birth every year, 435 do not survive the labour ward, leaving their babies orphaned.

Most mothers still do not have access to antenatal care services, others walk long distances when going to deliver, others due to lack of qualified personnel, end up dying due to birth-related complications. Statistics show that only 32 per cent of women who give birth in Uganda receive care from trained personnel and the majority give birth at home or under the supervision of traditional birth attendants.

The governments need to invest in training and retaining healthcare personnel, especially those who provide maternal healthcare services and allocate adequate resources to the health sector with a view to improving maternal health. Most healthcare centers have underqualified health personnel while others are understaffed. African countries should prioritise providing an attractive salary package for professionals to work in their home countries to prevent seeking greener pastures abroad.

The fight to improve the status of women’s health should not stop at the AU Summit; it should come to our homes, communities, and organisations so that we lobby governments to invest more resources in this area. I appreciate civil society organisations, especially FOWODE, that continue to champion the women’s cause, including fighting for gender equality.

Ali Kaviri, Peoples Progressive Party

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