Maternal and Infant Health in Uganda: A story of Hope

Dorothy Muhawe is a Communications Assistant with the Ministry of ICT&NG (PHOTO /Courtesy)

By Dorothy Muhawe

Mother! A very simple word but one on which, perhaps, humanity’s fate hangs. Elbert Hubbard captured this humanness of a mother best: Mother-love is the great, surging, divine current that plays forever through humanity.

Unfortunately, one too many mothers never live to enjoy the benefit of motherhood, succumbing to complications as a result of pregnancy – ‘Maternal Mortality.”

Maternal mortality is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy.
However, sometimes, a child is lost to a mother much too often before their first birthday – Infant mortality.

Over the years Uganda has experienced high levels of maternal and infant mortality. Many cases have especially occurred in rural areas because of multiple barriers to health care. These barriers include delay in decisions to seek medical care ,cultural norms with some chosing to believe in traditional birth attendants, low use of contraceptives, limited capacity of health facilities to manage abortions and miscarriages, high prevalence of HIV/AIDS , malaria etc

Infant deaths are mainly caused by pneumonia,malaria,diarrhea and HIV/AIDS.

In 2016, Uganda again recorded a decline in infant and maternal mortality rates. According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics(UBOS) key indicator report for the 6th demographic and health survey, infant mortality declined from 54 deaths per 1000 live births to 43 deaths per 1000 live births.
Maternal mortality declined from 438 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2011 to 336 deaths per 100,000 live births.

This most welcome decline is due to government strategic interventions channeled , through ministry of Health policy. This policy included, among others, prioritizing investment in training of health personnel, equipping district hospitals and health centre IIIs & IVs.
It is also in part because of civil society organizations as well as private sector players, who in partnership with our government continually invest in our health sector.

Uganda also runs a specialist program called Save Mother-Giving Life(SMGL).
This program has at its core, the welcome goal to further reduce maternal mortality.
SMGL also includes large interventions in communities for instance, increase in awareness campaigns promoting safe pregnancy habits,community outreach activities to counsel women,families,local leaders and community organizations on importance of family planning, recognition of danger pregnancy signs, HIV testing and treatment.

Free antenatal care is being provided in all government hospitals as well as in all government owned health centers.
In addition, village health monitoring teams are trained to monitor and provide First Aid to expectant mothers.

In 2018, our Ministry of health made changes to guidelines of antenatal care by specifically increasing, from four to eight, the number of times expectant mothers visit hospitals for antenatal care.

Dr.Placid Mayo,the Head of Reproductive Health at the ministry said that these number of visits counter cases of stillbirths and other potential pregnancy complications.

To reduce the burden of malaria during pregnancy, the ministry of health has included in its antenatal care package free insecticide-treated mosquito nets to families.

Improvement in antenatal care services has reduced the number of mothers and infants who die over the years in Uganda and it is helping the government to achieve the United Nations backed third Sustainable Development Goal(SDG) – “good health and well-being”which targets to reduce maternal mortality and end all preventable deaths of children under five years of age.

The government in 2016/2020 made progress in reducing maternal mortality by procuring and distributing mama-kits to women in labour in public health facilities through the National Medical Store.

The Ministry of Health scaled up a result based financing program with focus on reproductive,maternal,neonatal,child and adolescent health services in all districts of the country through the Uganda Reproductive Maternal and Child service Improvement Project(URMCHIP).
Routine immunization services are provided at all health facilities and outreaches conducted in all districts with support from Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization(GAVI).The result of successful immunisation programs run through the Ministry of Health’s Uganda National Expanded Program on Immunisation (UNEPI) is that many more infants now grow into healthier adults – what H.E. President Museveni refers to as “Immunised Bazukulu”!
No wonder then that in his latest Manifesto, president Museveni and the government he leads continue to prioritise health care in Uganda by ensuring that every sub-county has a functional health center III with qualified staff as well as a well-equipped maternity ward, increased access to family planning services and antenatal care services.

To reduce high maternal deaths due to haemorrhage and other causes like ruptured uterus,the government plans to install blood fridges to store blood in 89 health centers IVs.

Mothers and infants remain a government priority. Our duty as responsible patriotic citizens is to support these strategic government interventions in our health care sector. We must not forget the divine current that plays forever through humanity through Mother-love.

Ours is a story of hope!

The Writer is a Communications Assistant with the Ministry of ICT&NG.

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