Health sector suffers underfunding as maternal deaths rise

Saturday September 14 2013



For Leah Nambirige, life as a midwife is no longer fun. For six months now, she says Mityana Hospital has not had antiseptics, surgical blades, and gloves.

These are crucial items needed by health workers without which child delivery cannot take place. As a result, Ms Nambirige says they have had to turn away several mothers who have not come with these items.

“Some mothers accept and buy these items but others refuse and decide to go to Mulago Hospital. We cannot always chip in and use our money to buy these items,” Ms Nambirige says adding: “Ultimately, this running back and forth of expectant mother to buy these commodities becomes a delay which contributes to a maternal death.”

Ms Sarah Nyombi, a board member of the National Medical Stores (NMS), however, says it is peculiar that the hospital has not had these commodities since NMS delivers only what is requisitioned by hospitals and said the issue would be probed.

But then, the nurses face another challenge. According to Ms Nambirige, nurses are overworked and intimidated by politicians who have come up with a new by-law to cause arrest and prosecution of medics in whose hands a maternal death occurs.


Ms Robina Biteyi, the National Coordinator White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, says it is no longer women dying every day due to maternal complications but now 17 mothers and 106 newborns die every day in Uganda partly due to inadequate government investment in life-saving emergency obstetric and newborn care.

Dr Olive Sentumbwe, a family health advisor at the World Health Organisation, says that at the rate at which Uganda is moving, the MDG of 131 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015 is still unattainable.

Although government’s contribution to the health sector has increased, it hardly matches the growing population needs. This financial year, government allocated only 8.7 percent of the budget to the health sector up from 7.8 percent the previous financial year but this is still below the 15 percent commitment in the 2001 Abuja declaration.

State Minister for Finance in-charge of planning Matia Kasaija, however, says that it is too late to add any money for the health sector this financial year. Mr Kasaija said that although it is possible to increase funds next financial year, governments priority remains infrastructure and electricity.