Govt sued over maternal health budget

Wednesday April 28 2021
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By Anthony Wesaka

The Centre for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) has sued government for not adhering to court orders that mandated it to raise funding for the maternal health budget in the forthcoming financial year.
In the petition filed yesterday before the Constitutional Court, the civil society organisation contends that the maternal health budget for the 2021/2022 Financial Year has instead been cut by 9.3 per cent.

Court documents show that the petitioner, among other orders, seeks: “A declaration that the first respondent (government) is in contempt for neglecting, refusing and failing to implement the orders of this court…requiring among others to prioritise and provide sufficient funds in the national budget for maternal healthcare in the Financial Year 2021/2022.”
“As a matter of fact, the respondent (government) has instead proposed to cut the already meagre funds in the national budget for the health sector from Shs2.8t to Shs2.5t, which translates into a decrease of Shs258b (23 per cent),”  the petition states.

Last year, the same court in its land mark decision ordered government to prioritise and provide sufficient funds in the national budget for maternal healthcare to meet its Constitutional obligation of upholding the rights of women and fulfil their reproductive health rights.
Mr Peter Eceru, an official from CEHURD, said: “It is in no doubt that the respondent together with the responsible agencies, are fully aware of this constitutional judgment and particular orders sought to be enforced.”

He added: “I have perused and reviewed the national budget frame work papers and I have noted with concern that the respondent has failed to prioritise funding for maternal health, which is in violation of the court order.” 
The Abuja Declaration, to which Uganda is a signatory, provides that governments allocate at least 15 per cent of the annual budget to the health sector.
However, the sector has only been allocated 6.2 per cent of the national budget, which is not even half of what the Abuja Declaration demands.

Uganda suffers a persistently high maternal mortality ratio currently at 336 per 100,000 live births which translates into 16 women dying every day during childbirth. 
Lack of basic maternal health commodities such as gloves, syringes, blood and medicines are the major causes of maternal deaths.

Other court declarations
•Government to fully equip all health centres with basic maternal commodities in the next two financial years.
 •In the next financial year starting this July, government will prioritise and provide sufficient funds in the national budget for maternal healthcare.
 •Health minister to compile and submit to Parliament full audit on the status of maternal healthcare in the country by end of next two financial years.
•Health minister to ensure all staff providing maternal healthcare are fully trained.