By Hope Mafaranga
Furegenzia Kakazi of Kashuro village, Ndeija sub-county in Mbarara district, narrates her story as if it was an ordinary incident.
“I was being rushed to Itojo Hospital to deliver, but my labour pains intensified and I gave birth on the way. The boda boda cyclist rushed back to the trading centre, about 10km away, to get a razor blade so that I could cut the umbilical code. I was left alone in the bush at around 10:00pm. Suddenly, two wild dogs attacked me and tried to grab my baby. I fought them off with a tree branch, with the baby still attached to me. I almost lost my baby, but I fought on, until the boda boda cyclist returned,” she says. Kakazi will never forget that experience. She even decided to stop having children. “I thank God that my baby survived. I have stopped having children because I could not imagine fighting with wild dogs again,” the mother of four says.
Kakazi was lucky. Other women have suffered similar incidents and lost their babies or died. The whole of Kashuro has no health centre.
Surprisingly, Mbarara town is about 50km away.
Kanohiri lost her baby
Judith Kanohiri, 23, who also lives in Kashuro, lost her second-born on her way to Itojo Hospital. Kanohiri, who could not control her tears as she narrated her ordeal, believes her baby could not have died if they had a health centre nearby.
“The hospital is far. We have no roads, no health centre and no hope. I wish I had a better place to go, to escape this deadly area,” she says.
On the fateful day, she said her husband called for a special hire taxi from Mbarara town, but the driver refused to come, saying he could not drive on the bad road.
They resorted to boda boda, but could not find any. Their last hope of getting a bicycle was also shuttered when the owner said it had a mechanical problem.
“It was 9:00pm and I was dying in pain. Some of our male neighbours converged and made a stretcher (locally known as ekigagara) and carried me on their shoulders to Itojo Hospital, about 40km from home. The baby’s time came along the way. I tried my best but, the baby died because it was too tired,” Kanohiri said.
She also bled profusely and was admitted in Itojo for two weeks. “I did not bury my baby. It is so painful,” she said.
Women in Kashuro said the area is hard to reach and the Government has not done anything to help expectant mothers.
The women aired out their concerns during a community dialogue, organised by HEPS Uganda, a nongovernmental organisation, recently.
The dialogue was intended to bring communities to interface with policy-makers and service providers to address their health concerns.
Six women die in two months
Nathan Baryamujura, the LC1 chairperson of Kyankyere village, told the meeting that they had lost six women in Kyankyere and Kiyonga villages over child birth in two months.
“We do not have a health centre. We carry women on ekigagara and some of them die on the way. The Government should come to our rescue,” Baryamujura said.
Another resident, Serezio Mugisha, said the people of Rwampara had no cause to celebrate Uganda’s 50 years of independence. “When a woman dies, the men suffer with the burden of looking after the children. We need a quick intervention to save the women,” he said.
Rossette Mutambi, the executive director of HEPS Uganda, said it was unfortunate that women had to trek over 50km to seek medical services.
She appealed to the Government to construct a health centre in the area.
Mbarara assistant district health officer, Dr. Lubega Kazooba, said they could not do much since the health ministry stopped the construction of health centre IIs.
“We are aware that women in this area have a big problem, but the ministry halted the construction of health centre IIs, saying they were expensive to maintain. We cannot go against that policy,” he said.
His remarks angered the women, who asked him if they should stop giving birth. In defence, Lubega advised them to report to hospital early and camp there until they give birth.
Didas Tabaro, the district secretary for social services, said his department would lobby for outreach programmes to provide antenatal care to women to reduce maternal deaths.