Address basic health challenges

Sunday February 26 2012

By Editorial

The Ministry of Health and the US Government last week signed a joint agreement to carry out collaborative initiatives targeted at saving the lives of women and children. The arrangement-- part of the United States’ Global Health Initiative (GHI)-- aimed at bringing quality healthcare to Ugandans, is a significant effort that should, with proper implementation, improve healthcare services, particularly by reducing pregnancy-related deaths.

The $400 million (Shs920 billion), though part of a bigger project to improve health services across the country, will mainly be used to fight maternal mortality and build blood banks in the five regional hospitals and a data base on healthcare services. The plan is to reduce maternal mortality rates by 50 per cent in four districts of western Uganda by the end of this year. Kabarole and Kyenjojo districts are said to register at least 31 per cent of the cases of maternal mortality in the country.

Such funding from the US government and other development partners are noble. As part of GHI, the American people are investing billions of dollars worldwide, including the annual $400 million in health assistance to Uganda. Our challenge, however, is to improve implementation to ensure that the impact of such initiatives are felt by those who need it most—the rural population who barely have access to health facilities.

Uganda’s maternal mortality remains unacceptably high, one of the highest in the world, in fact. With 435 maternal deaths registered for every 100,000 live births, the task of achieving safe motherhood remains hugely challenging. Practical steps must therefore be taken to addressing basic challenges faced by rural mothers in accessing and or receiving proper health services.

In rural Uganda, some expectant mothers die simply because they cannot make it to the nearest health centre while others who may make it to the health centres are left to die because of understaffing or lack of proper equipment and necessary drugs. Many similar cases have been documented from various health facilities across the country.

It is positive that under the GHI strategy, the US Government and the Ministry of Health will focus on voluntary family planning, skilled care at birth, emergency obstetric care, and postpartum care. The key challenges faced by rural mothers such as lack of good road network and transportation must, however, be addressed if these mothers are to benefit from such initiatives.