Expectant mothers in Aromo Sub-county, Lira District, are now delivering with the help of traditional birth attendants (TBAs) following the recent closure of a maternity ward at Aromo Health Centre III.
On June 24, part of a ceiling board collapsed on mothers in the labour ward at the government health facility, prompting the authorities to shut it down.
The ward, constructed with support from Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR), has never been rehabilitated since its establishment in 2007.
Daily Monitor has learnt that even after that incident, nothing has been done to rehabilitate the maternity.
As a result, women going to seek services at the health centre are now being referred to distant health facilities such as Ogur Health Centre IV and Lira Regional Referral Hospital.
Those who are unable to move to the two facilities are now delivering at the hands of untrained TBAs. In most rural areas of Uganda, TBAs are often seen as the only recourse for pregnant women.
Some mothers who spoke to Daily Monitor last week said they prefer the services of TBAs because they are cheap compared to private health facilities. Government outlawed TBAs since some mothers with complications would die there.
TBAs are said to be asking for one bar of soap, a chicken and five kilogrammes of beans while private health facilities charge between Shs30,000 and Shs50,000 to deliver a mother.
“Last week, I delivered with the help of a traditional birth attendant because I could not raise Shs30,000 needed for delivery at Aromo Maternity Home,” Ms Harriet Adong said.
Ms Grace Apio, 54, said since the temporary closure of the maternity ward at Aromo Health Centre, two of her daughters-in-law were delivered by the local birth attendants.
Ms Margret Opio, a TBA who has for the last nine years been helping women to deliver, said so far in this month, she had helped three mothers.
Ms Mercy Joyce Alira, an enrolled nurse at Aromo Maternity Home, a private facility, said the number of mothers seeking their services has greatly reduced.
Mr Isaac Ojok, a member of the village health team, said TBAs in Aromo are receiving more clients than the private maternity home.
The health unit management committee chairperson, Mr Norman Richard Ocen, said the authorities were aware of the challenge at Aromo Health Centre.
Mr Ocen is optimistic that with the help of development partners, the maternity unit would be renovated and opened soon.
“There is a group of people who have agreed to help us with some funds for renovation this month,” he said.
The facility’s in-charge, Mr James Ocen, declined to comment on the matter, saying he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Mr David Elich Okello, the Aromo Sub-county chairperson, said they were still sourcing for funds to renovate the health facility.
In 2010, government banned TBAs from giving services to expecting mothers but many women still go to them because of the inconsistencies and gaps in the main health-care system. A random survey conducted between January 2016 and June 2017 discovered that TBAs were behind 76 per cent of the 42 identified maternal deaths that occurred Kyankwanzi District in that time.