May 26, 2011
On Friday 27 May, hundreds of activists in Kampala, Mityana and Arua will mark the first day of an historic Constitutional Court Petition against the Government of Uganda on maternal mortality.
In Kampala, health experts, people with HIV, medical students, religious leaders, concerned Ugandans and others will gather at the Constitutional Court with signs and banners reading “Not another needless death: Government stop the deaths of mothers now!” The Petition, Number 16 of 2011, argues that the Government’s non provision of essential services for pregnant mothers and their newborns violates the fundamental obligation of the country to uphold the Constitution and defend, protect and promote the right to health and the right to life. The Petition highlights the case of Sylvia Nalubowa, a mother in Mityana and Jennifer Anguko, a mother and District Councillor in Arua, both of whom died in childbirth. According to the activists, such cases are commonplace in Uganda. “At least 16 women in Uganda die each day in childbirth or soon after—scandalously high levels of maternal mortality considering Ugandaʼs widely recognized economic growth.”
Neighboring countries such as Rwanda and Ethiopia have roughly equivalent gross domestic products as Uganda, but have performed far better in reducing maternal mortality rates. According to the activists, Uganda has lagged behind other countries because the Government has refused to scale up priority investments in the health sector that would save the lives of pregnant mothers. Major factors that contribute to high direct risk of maternal death in Uganda include births unattended by trained professional health workers, lack of access to emergency obstetric care for responding to hemorrhage and other emergencies, lack of access to quality antenatal care, and lack of access to family planning services. Lack of access to life-saving HIV treatment and to malaria prevention and treatment are also major contributors to preventable maternal deaths in Uganda. “Instead of scaling up investments in these areas, the Government has either flat-lined or reduced its domestic investments. With increased government investment and leadership, these deaths would stop,” a press release reads. The press release was issued by a group of about 30 NGO’s in Uganda, including AGHA, an IFHHRO member.
“We are fed up with the broken promises of the Government that they will provide us with the blood, ambulances, medicines, and health workers that are an expression of our fundamental human rights as Ugandans,” said Mable Kukunda of UNHCO (United Healthcare Organization). “Now the matter is in the hands of the Constitutional Court and we are hopeful that the Justices will understand the unacceptable plight that pregnant women face in Uganda.”