News / Africa

Ugandan Activists Pressure Government to Reduce Maternal Deaths

Activists hold a peaceful march in the capital Kampla to protest the delay by a Ugandan court to deliver a ruling in a landmark lawsuit regarding the cases of two women who unattended bled to death during childbirth.
Activists hold a peaceful march in the capital Kampla to protest the delay by a Ugandan court to deliver a ruling in a landmark lawsuit regarding the cases of two women who unattended bled to death during childbirth.
Andrew Green
KAMPALA - Uganda’s health activists are demanding an increase in skilled medical workers to save the lives of the country’s mothers. An advocacy coalition has kept national attention focused on the issue for more than a year. But, as 16 women continue to die every day from complications giving birth, activists have yet to realize any new funding for health workers.

Tragic case recalled

Jennifer Anguko bled to death in a government hospital in October 2010, waiting to deliver her child. As her husband, Valente Inziku, begged health workers for attention, he says his wife told him she was dying and then lost consciousness. By the time Inziku convinced someone to help, it was too late. Their unborn child died as well. More than a year later, Inziku says he is still struggling to raise their older three children alone.

“How am I going to bring up the children? That’s now the question I’m asking myself,” Inziku wondered.

Calls for change

Anguko’s death became one of the rallying points for a coalition of Ugandan health activists to reduce maternal mortality. Uganda has seen maternal death rates almost cut in half in the past 20 years, but it remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to give birth. The United Nations Population Fund says Uganda registers 310 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

Activists argue the majority of maternal deaths could be prevented with more health workers and consistent access to medical supplies.

Uganda has 2,500 government health centers, but nearly 50 percent of the positions are unfilled. That means at least one out of every two pregnant women has no skilled medical person to help them give birth. The U.N. Population Fund says at least 2,000 more midwives are needed to address the situation.

Without more midwives and nurses in the system, Rukia Nansubuga, a grassroots organizer in Kampala, says expectant mothers will continue to suffer and die, so they will not even go to medical centers.

“They fear to go to health centers, because the health centers are not well-facilitated. The health workers are not well-facilitated,"Nansubuga said. "The ones who go there are neglected.”

Civil society groups joined forces a year ago to more effectively pressure the government. Robina Biteyi is the national coordinator of the White Ribbon Alliance. “This is a very good development, because we have all worked on maternal and newborn health, but separately," she noted. "We felt we needed to come together and make sure we have more strength in demanding for accountability for maternal, newborn and child health.”

The coalition took the unusual step last year of suing the government in constitutional court, arguing that women’s right to life was undermined by health worker shortages and a lack of supplies. They also initiated an international resolution calling for governments to prioritize safe motherhood, which was passed in April at a meeting in Kampala.

Setbacks

Although the efforts have raised the profile of the maternal mortality crisis, they have not yet resulted in a concrete victory. In early June, the constitutional court threw out the case against the government, saying it was a political issue.

Sylveria Alwoch, of the Uganda National Health Consumers Organization, says the decision was a setback, but it will not undermine the coalition’s larger efforts.

“We are still there and we are going to continue advocating. Advocacy doesn’t end in one day," said Alwoch. "And, when you get disappointed, it doesn’t mean you go and cover your head and stop there.”

Despite the court setback and the Ministry of Health’s announcement that there would be no new funding for health workers this year, the groups are continuing to lobby the government ahead of the release of the budget this month, hoping money will be reallocated for hiring.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs