On one of my casual interactions in a taxi as a headed home, I met a lady in her early 20s carrying a 6 month baby so i decided to get into a conversation with her on her experience raising a child. She lives in Banda, a Kampala suburb about seven kilometers from Mulago Hospital (Uganda’s national referral hospital). She could not afford to deliver her baby at a nearby private clinic so she opted to go to Mulago where the government provides free services.
She managed to go for 3 antenatal visits though she didn’t manage to have any with her husband because he has a busy work schedule and believed she could do this on her own with the help of her relative. On the day she delivered, she checked into Mulago at about 3.45pm and successfully delivered her baby by 8 pm. However, by 8am the following day she was found lying on outside the ward’s verandah because she had to create space for other expectant mothers. She could not be allowed to have decent rest on a bed in the ward.
She managed to get postnatal care within the first week of delivery and the baby was also immunised. She attributes this to information she received from the routine community health outreaches conducted in Banda. This, unfortunately is not the case with all mothers.
During the just concluded #LoveMukibanda community outreach by Reach A Hand Uganda in Bwaise a Kampala Suburb, I interacted with a young lady who said one of the biggest challenge she faces as she goes to the health centre to access SRHR services and commodities is that the centre does not have space for her to confidently open up to the Health Worker because she also thinks she will tell other people about her health challenges. At 23 years, she has given birth to 2 children and none of the births was conducted by a skilled health worker.
According to the MDG 2014 report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa together with the African Union, African Development Bank Group and the United Nations Development Programme on assessing progress in Africa toward the MDGs, to date 95% of Ugandan women receive antenatal care from a skilled provider at least once, 57% deliver babies in a health facility under the supervision of a skilled provider. Furthermore, 33% of the mothers received a postnatal checkup within two days of birth. This shows positive strides in achieving zero maternal deaths.
To curb the increasing maternal health deaths among adolescents and young people, The Ministry of Health, Uganda and its partners developed the Adolescent Health Policy and Service standards with an aim of mainstreaming adolescent health concerns in the national development process in order to improve their quality of life and standards of living with a key emphasis on provision of quality youth friendly services maternal health inclusive. With this the Ministry of Health plans to implement a sharpened plan titled, “A promise renewed” to accelerate investments in maternal, newborn and child health. Key features of this plan include ;
- Improving antenatal care by providing comprehensive ANC services,
- Improving malaria prevention and management with a focus on the needs of pregnant women,
- Providing HIV voluntary counseling and testing services and nutritional supplements to pregnant women.
Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU) is currently running a campaign dubbed #Voices4Health which is aimed at creating awareness about the available health facilities providing youth friendly services and empowering the youth to advocate for quality service provision from health facilities. RAHU and its partners are drumming for support from the district leadership (Political and Technical) to commit on implementation of the Adolescent Health Policy and service Standards to increase young people’s access to youth friendly health services and commodities.
For you and I to continue creating awareness about the achievements and challenges in maternal health and rights, join us in recognizing April 11 as the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights. Maternal health advocates, researchers, and providers are committed to ending human rights abuses and promoting skilled and dignified care. Together with the UN community we can make comprehensive, respectful, and rights-based maternal health care available to all by signing this petition calling asking the UN to officially recognize April 11 as International Day for Maternal Health and Rights: bit.ly/UNSGPetition.