Maternal health: Let’s target communities

Monday February 24 2020

Hopeful. Some of the mothers breastfeed their

Hopeful. Some of the mothers breastfeed their babies as they await immunisation at a health centre in Arua District in 2018. FILE PHOTO 

By Editor

Last week, we reported about the delight of residents of Mbale Municipality, especially police officers, following the commissioning of a Shs500 million maternity facility at Mbale Police health Centre III. The project, funded by USAID, consists of modern beds, waiting room, labour ward, examination and consultation rooms, and an incinerator.
Such a facility is a basic necessity a community should have. But in most communities, it is not. That is why the community celebrated the opening of the facility and they were quoted as saying they will no longer have to trek long distances to access maternal health services.
This is significant because this health centre has been without a maternity ward for many years yet it serves a big population in the barracks and members of the neighbouring communities. According to estimates by health workers at the unit, close to 2,000 mothers will benefit from the new 20-bed facility.
This small facility is by no means a small achievement because thousands of pregnant mothers across the country are unable to access well equipped health centres with enough personnel to attend to them. The reasons are varied: Distance from health facilities, shortage of health workers, lack of required medication or equipment, among others.
When faced with such challenges, a pregnant woman in a rural setting who gets pregnancy related complications, may find it difficult to access a health centre quickly. In some cases, even if she does get to a health centre, other challenges abound: No personnel to attend to her, and sometimes where there are health centres, the facility may lack necessary drugs, equipment and other supplies.
According to the National Annual Maternal and Perinatal Death Surveillance and Response Report 2018/2019 titled Every Mother and New-born Accounted For, haemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal deaths, accounting for 46 per cent. Dr Alex Muhereza, a senior adviser for maternal, new-born and child services in Acholi Sub-region, says 84 per cent of mothers who have haemorrhage die after they have delivered due to ruptured uterus, previous scars and health workers not monitoring the bleeding very well.
With well-equipped health facilities that are accessible to communities and with enough health workers, most pregnancy related complications would be successfully handled. This is why we should celebrate small but significant feats like the opening of a maternity ward at a health facility in Mbale.
There should be deliberate effort to spread such developments to cover more communities countrywide. This will further improve the progress Uganda has so far made in reducing maternal mortality.