THE Government of South Korea and UNICEF Uganda have signed an agreement that will see the former give to the latter for taming the high maternal and new-born mortality in Karamoja and Acholi
By Innocent Anguyo
THE Government of South Korea and UNICEF Uganda have signed an agreement that will see the former give $8,552,020 (approximately sh25b) to the latter for taming the high maternal and new-born mortality in Karamoja and Acholi.
The Agreement was signed on Thirsday at UNICEF Uganda Country office on George Street in Kampala. The Asian country's support to UNICEF will be channeled through the Korea International Co-operation Agency (KOICA).
KOICA Uganda representative Jun Youngsuk signed the agreement on behalf of her institution, as did her UNICEF counterpart, Aida Girma. This was done under the watchful eyes of the South Korean Ambassador to Uganda, Park Jong-Dae.
The Korean grant, Girma said would be made use of to recruit skilled health workers; improve operational efficiency of health facilities; equip health facilities with appropriate medical equipment, commodities and innovative technology; and train village health teams as related issue.
Over 103,000 pregnant women targeted
The four-year partnership targets 103,071 pregnant women, 15,460 pregnant women presenting with labour complications and 100,000 children under five, including new-borns in ten selected districts of –Abim, Amudat Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Agago, Kitgum and Pader.
The decision to zero on these districts for the implementation of this project, Girma noted was informed by realisation that while Uganda's maternal mortality ratio is 438 per 100,000 live births, the ratios in Karamoja and Acholi stand at 750 and 561 respectively.
Karomaja and Acholi, Girma equally noted have the poorest health indicators in Uganda and suffer inadequacy of maternal and new-born health services.
"This grant arrangement will enable us to align our efforts at various levels for improved delivery of reproductive, maternal, new born and child health services towards reversing the stagnation or slow progress in averting maternal and child mortality," reiterated Girma.
Asked why of all the health challenges in Uganda, UNICEF and KOICA decided to intervene in maternal and new-born mortality, Girma said the issue remained a global concern-with women and infants continuing to die of preventable causes.
Despite Uganda having a good health sector and subsector policies and strategies for reducing maternal mortality-such as the Health Policy; Health Sector Strategic and Investment Plan; roadmap for maternal and new-born morbidity and mortality reduction; and child survival strategy, Girma noted that implementation, accountability and monitoring remains weak.
"Although there is common understanding of the causes of maternal and child mortality and effective interventions, the health systems are weak, services severely under-resourced, and consequently progress remains slow in averting maternal and child deaths," added Girma.
Project to strengthen district health structures
This project, Grace Latigi of UNICEF therefore said would work with the established state structures, especially those at the district level- in a bid to improve government's capacity to cut down maternal and new-born mortality.
Youngsuk revealed that KOICA and UNICEF would conduct joint reviews, technical guidance and routine monitoring of the project- saying she hoped the intervention would contribute to reduction of maternal, new born, and child morbidity and mortality in Acholi and Karamoja.
She identified their source of funding as the air-ticket solidary levy entitled, "Global Poverty Eradication Contribution" of 2007. Under this program, the international flight passengers departing Korea contribute about $1- accretions of which the country has now ring-fenced for fighting child and maternal mortality.
Jong-Dae described the project as "a new chapter in saving the mothers and children of Uganda", emphasising that 'improving population access to family planning services is critical for reducing maternal mortality and improving women's and child health."
He called upon Uganda's ministry of health to work alongside UNICEF in recruiting healthcare personnel in the beneficiary districts to ensure adequate staffing – in tandem with the needs of the selected health facilities.
Giving a background of the project, Latigi said the collaboration between UNICEF and KOICA started in 2013 with a field visit to Karamoja by a team from both institutions to conduct a needs assessment around maternal child health.
"After a comprehensive consultative process, it was agreed that the partnership will focus on strengthening the continuum of care for maternal, new-born and child health services in Karamoja and Acholi sub regions by addressing the three delays that are responsible for maternal and new-born deaths," Latigi said.
She identified the delays as- failure to seek early medical attention, long distances from health facilities and ill-equipped and ill-staffed health facilities.
"The continuum of care includes integrated service delivery for mothers and children from pre pregnancy to child birth, immediately after childbirth and through childhood."
Latigi said the project will also focus on health system strengthened through increasing accessibility, availability, and utilization of critical health sector data with the focus on improving district led planning, programme implementation and monitoring.
Youngsuk also announced that KOICA would give Save the Children $4m (about sh11.6b) to implement its activities in Ntoroko, Bundibugyo and Kasese. World Vision will receive $4.7m (about sh13.7b) from KOICA this year to implement its activities in Butaleja district.
Korea pledges sh25b to reduce maternal mortality