Focus on quality maternal healthcare
Posted Thursday, January 31 2013 at 02:00
Uganda has taken significant steps to reduce maternal deaths. The government offers free maternal healthcare services in government owned hospitals.
“I just saw a woman giving birth on the ground at the entrance of the hospital!” I uttered those words in shock and confusion to a gynaecologist I had gone to see at Mulago Hospital. Five months later, the sight of that woman remains vivid. As I walked through the maternity ward, I saw many others lying on the floor with their new born babies.
I overheard some women pleading with midwives to allocate beds to them. Others were telling midwives they did not have money to buy cotton wool and polythene bags. I had been told about the terrible state of our hospitals but I was not prepared for what I saw. I also wondered what the situation was like in other districts if Mulago, the biggest referral hospital in Uganda was in such a dire state.
Uganda has taken significant steps to reduce maternal deaths. The government offers free maternal healthcare services in government owned hospitals. The Ministry of Health has also developed strategies to reduce maternal deaths and the country’s Constitution recognises the need for the government to protect women’s rights by taking into account their unique status and natural maternal functions.
However, the rate of maternal deaths in the country is still shockingly high and is increasing.
Although Uganda has taken some steps to reduce the numbers of women and girls who die of pregnancy-related causes, many continue to die from preventable and treatable conditions, including severe bleeding, infections, unsafe abortions and obstructed labour.
Poor quality services such as the one I witnessed at Mulago, and lack of access to existing services contribute to an already difficult situation for women and girls. Many have little or no access to healthcare that may save their lives, such as emergency obstetric care, blood transfusions, and antibiotics.
Majority of women in Uganda, especially those in rural areas live far from the nearest health center, lack transport and may have to walk long distances to get to a hospital or clinic. As a result, many give birth at home without trained personnel to assist them. This increases their risk of complications and even death of the mother and child.
To celebrate 27 years of being in power, the NRM government should show us that it is serious about reducing the high numbers of maternal deaths in Uganda. It must prioritise and urgently focus on increasing access to quality maternal healthcare and reducing the number of women and girls dying from preventable and treatable causes resulting from pregnancy and child birth.
The government should also dedicate itself to making quality maternal healthcare affordable to all women, especially those in rural areas. This will reduce the high numbers of women dying from pregnancy and child birth complications. By doing this, Uganda can avoid more cases of women giving birth on the ground and sleeping on the floor of hospitals with new born babies.
New York, USA