The Embassy of Sweden in Uganda has kicked-off a campaign to highlight and recognise the critical role of midwives.
By Taddeo Bwambale
The Embassy of Sweden in Uganda has kicked-off a campaign to highlight and recognise the critical role of midwives in reducing maternal and child mortality.
The six-week ‘midwives4all’ campaign that started yesterday is part of a global drive by the Swedish Foreign Ministry for Affairs to mobilise communities, influence policy makers and attract young people to join midwifery.
Seven embassies across the world are taking part in the campaign.
In Uganda, the campaign was launched at the residence of the Swedish Ambassador to Uganda, Urban Andersson in Nakasero.
First Lady Janet Museveni being welcomed by the Swedish Ambassador to Uganda, Urban Andersson for the Midwives4all launch . PHOTO/Maria Wamala
Vision Group will run a series programmes on its regional radio stations to raise awareness about the role of midwives in increasing access to life-saving care to women and their babies, the critical role men and the importance of the midwifery career.
In Uganda, only half all children are born with the assistance of a trained midwife, making it difficult to prevent deaths resulting from pregnancy-related complications. Every day, 20 women in Uganda die during pregnancy or child birth.
With a population of 34.9 million people, Uganda needs 55,073 midwives and nurses, but only 63% midwives and 51% nurses, respectively, are available.
First Lady Janet Museveni chats with some of the champions of midwives4all campaign (L-R) Dr. Sylvester Arinaitwe, local music artist Juliana Kanyomozi and Prof Magid Kajimu after launching a six-week ‘midwives4all’ Campaign. PHOTO/Maria Wamala
Seven personalities were unveiled to be champions for the Uganda campaign.
They include retired professor and consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Florence Mirembe, World and Olympic champion, Stephen Kiprotich; state minister for health (general duties) ,Dr Chris Baryomunsi; Prof Majid Kagimu from the Uganda Muslim Medical Association; CatherineMwesigwa, a journalist and New Vision deputy editor; singer Juliana Kanyomozi; and Rev Dr Sylvester Arinaitwe, the executive director of the Uganda Joint Christian Council.
Champions of the Midwives4all campaign
Th campaign will inspire young people to take up the profession- Baryomunsi
Dr.Chris Baryomunsi was once an aspiring priest. However, after six years in seminary, he opted out to become a doctor and later a politician. So why did he change course?
“There is a saying that many are called, but few a chosen,” he laughs, adding, “I wanted to serve God in a different way and that would be reaching out to the people. Being a doctor was one way to do that,” Baryomunsi says.
In a way, he was right. Growing up in peasant class obscurity, Baryomunsi had seen it all. “I grew up in an environment where people had no access to hospitals,” he recalls.
The ninth born in a family of 10, little Baryomunsi was born in a polygamous family.
He could tell the problems that came with having so many mouths to feed. School was a luxury and most of his siblings dropped out of school.
“The happenings made me work really hard and that is how I managed to make it to Makerere University,” he says.
When he completed his bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery, in 1997, Baryomunsi worked as a medical and trainer in the health ministry (1995-1999).
He would later be appointed the health and HIV/IDS Adviser with GTZ, a position he held until 2002 when he was appointed executive health advisor at the United Nations Population Fund.
Throughout his career as a medical doctor, he has been passionate about maternal health and HIV issues.
“I am concerned about mothers who continue to die every day because of childbirth-related complications, some of which could be prevented,” says the Kinkiizi MP, who also doubles as the state minister for health in charge of general duties.
In fact, when he made a decision to join politics in 2006, it was not that he wanted greener pastures. Rather, he thought that would help him advocate for better health services more at a policy level.
“This for me is a bigger contribution. Without service delivery systems in place, health workers can only do so much to save lives,” he says.
That Baryomunsi is one of the champions for Midwives4All campaign spearheaded by the Embassy of Sweden in Uganda came as a pleasant surprise. “Midwives have a critical role in bringing forth lives.
These are individuals, who are saving the lives of women and children every day. These are no ordinary people, that we need to reconcile,” he says.
As a champion, he is optimistic that the campaign will inspire the young people to take up the profession, hence making a difference in maternal health.
A physician by specialty, Baryomunsi studied at Kayunge primary school, St Paul’s seminary, Rushoroza in Kabale for his secondary education, before joining Makerere University for a degree in medicine and surgery.
He also has a masters and postgraduate diploma in demographics from Makerere University as well as a postgraduate diploma in HIV/AIDs management from the university of Brighton in the UK.
I want Uganda’s future athletes to be delivered well - Kiprotich
World and Olympic Champion Stephen Kiprotich is one of the Ugandans who have accepted to champion the campaign highlighting the importance of the midwife in increasing access to life-saving care to women during pregnancy, childbirth and in the postpartum period.
The campaign is driven by the Embassy of Sweden in Uganda.
"It is an honour to be part of the campaign which is aimed at helping safe delivery of children.
The period at and after birth matters a lot to a child as the parents have to deal with many complications that the child can face in the future," said Kiprotich.
He runs a legacy programme in Kapchorwa with the aim of seeing that children start running at an early stage as a means of improving their potential as future athletes.
Kiprotich wants these children to be in the best condition for them to run well. This to him means that the mothers must have had good care during pregnancy, at delivery and also during the postpartum period.
"Safe delivery matters a lot in the future of the child and every pregnant mother needs to be attended to well to deliver a healthy baby," he says.
"It is a campaign that will ensure that we produce more stars and as a country, we will be proud to have them lift Uganda's flag higher. In most times we see stars after they have won medals but the people who played a role in their delivery did a great job to ensure that they live a happy life free from complication," Kiprotich added.
He said that he knows how many children are dying because the mothers can't access good medical facilities or the midwives are very few, such that they cannot attend to them.
"Currently, the numbers of midwives we have is low. We need more midwives trained both men and women to ensure that there are enough to help in the safe delivery of mothers. Currently, other countries have more midwives mostly in Europe and we can also get there and ensure that our children are delivered in safe hands," said Kiprotich.
Kiprotich was born in Cheptiyal Village in Kapchorwa, in the Sebei mountainous area a place where access to safe delivery service is a nightmare.
Though he first represented Uganda at international level in 2006 in Fukouka, Japan, he had to endure five years of tough training before he broke through by winning a gold medal at the men's marathon event at the London 2012 Olympic Games and adding a World champion gold medal in Marathon in Moscow 2013.
He in February set a new marathon national record of 2:06:33 when he finished second in the Tokyo marathon.
I have seen what midwives go through to save life - Kanyomozi
She is one of the most successful female artists in the country, one that has managed to keep her head high in an industry that’s rather aggressive.
But Juliana Kanyomozi does not just sing about popular themes, she also sings about life.
In one or her songs, Nakazzade, she highlights the plight of a woman suffering from obstetric fistula, one of the illnesses that arise from prolonged obstructed labour.
Obstetric fistula is a condition in which a hole develops between either the rectum and vagina or between the bladder and vagina after severe or failed childbirth, when adequate medical care is not available. It leads to leakage of urine or stool or both.
Fistula condemns sufferer to solitude and isolation and a life of poverty since they are often unable to work and socialise.
This and many other complications including death are some of the challenges women go through during or after labour if not handled by a trained health worker and a midwife has proved to have the skills to save mothers and babies.
“As a woman and a mother, I feel really attached to this campaign because I have seen what midwives go through to save not just a life of the mother but the baby amidst a number of challenges,” says Kanyomozi.
According to the songstress, this is one way to increase awareness especially among rural mothers on the role of seeking antenatal care from a trained medical worker and in this case a midwife.
“There are still women out there who do not believe in visiting health facilities during pregnancy and delivery which has continuously increased the risk of maternal mortality,” she notes.
From humble beginnings as a Karaoke singer, award winning artist Juliana Kanyomozi is one of Uganda’s top female musicians with several songs to her name including collaboration with artistes across the region.
To be specific, Kanyomozi was the first female musician to win the ‘artist of the year’ award during the 2008 Pearl of Africa (PAM) awards. And she went on to win and get nominated for several other awards in the region and the continent.
Call it the ‘Juliana fever,’ most of the songs that she has put her voice to have received massive acceptance and following from her undoubtedly religious fans.
The second last born in a family of six, Kanyomozi is daughter to Gerald (RIP) and Catherine Manyindo from Fort Portal. She is a first cousin to the reigning King Oyo of Toro Kingdom.
Midwives are the unsung heroines that need to be recognised for their efforts - Dr. Mirembe
As a young girl attending Christ the King Secondary School Kalisizo, Dr. Florence Mirembe admired the midwives’ uniform.
“I really loved the way they dressed: they were smart with belts neatly clasped around their waists,” she recalls.
Her admiration grew to a point that Mirembe says she wanted to be a midwife too but her father told her she could also be a doctor.
“I did not know that women could be doctors. My father told me about Dr. [Josephine] Nambooze [Uganda’s first female doctor] and I thought about it, but it was about becoming a doctor, not a gynaecologist,” says Mirembe.
While at Budo Kings College for her A-Levels in 1966-67, Mirembe’s mind was preoccupied with medicine and at Makerere University, she fine-tuned her thoughts and settled for obstetrics.
“Long before I qualified as a doctor, I chose obstetrics because I felt at the time that women had issues: women could not make decisions for themselves,” says Mirembe.
Now that she is a retired professor of obstetrics from Makerere’s College of Health Sciences, Mirembe maintains that the role of a midwife is crucial to the safety of the mother, delivery of the baby and even after the pains of the labour ward.
“As a gyn, you simply realise that women’s lives are in the hands of midwives. It is the midwives in public hospitals who check pregnant mothers in antenatal, monitors them till delivery and after,” she says, adding, “If they do their job well then we [the doctors] have done a superb job. We take the credit.”
For that matter, Mirembe says she believes that midwives are the unsung heroines that need to be recognised for their efforts in saving mothers and children.
As the co-founder of Save the Mothers, an international organisation that equips professionals in different fields in developing countries to improve the health of mothers and babies, Mirembe is at the forefront of championing the cause of midwives.
“I have lived with midwives; I know their roles and their constraints. We need to advocate for them to do what they should and what needs to be in place to ensure they do what they have to do,” she says.
To emphasize how integral midwives are, Mirembe says although pregnant mothers book doctors to deliver their babies, it is the midwives that end up doing so.
“When a mother bleeds, midwives know when to call you [the doctor]. Sometimes doctors monitor patients on remote because the midwife is there,” she says.
Personally, Mirembe is indebted to midwives for her success. “In fact I have done good work because of good midwives. Sometimes, they even take patients to theatre and tell me to go straight through,” says Mirembe.
She notes that people are quick to judge them as less important than a doctor and harsh in the labour ward, yet they are frustrated by the demanding nature of their job and a lack of equipment.
“Midwives sit with women in labour for all the hours they are in labour. If a baby dies on your duty, a midwife feels bad,” she says, “Midwifery is a very demanding, stressful job. They are really key in our development.”
We need to appreciate the work midwives do to guarantee safe delivery - Rwomukubwe
Rev Fr Dr Sylvester Arinaitwe Rwomukubwe is the executive secretary of Uganda Joint Christian Council, an ecumenical faith-based organisation whose membership comprises the Roman Catholic Church, Uganda Orthodox Church and the Church of Uganda.
It provides a forum for articulating issues including ecumenism, democracy, good governance, conflict resolution, health, education and social justice.
He is one of the champions of the Midwives4all campaign.
He attributed his involvement in the campaign to his family background and advocacy work.
“My mother was a traditional midwife who started attending to expectant mothers in 1948, until the 1990s when she was no longer strong enough to work. She was known in our village as ‘Nyinaboona’ meaning ‘mother of all.’
Some of the people she attended to would die but most of them lived. You could see the joy she had every time she helped a woman to deliver a child.
“I grew up noticing that midwives and nurses work so hard, during awkward hours and under unpleasant conditions, yet their role is not often recognised in society.
“Following new government guidelines that required traditional birth attendants to acquire skills and formalise their trade, she attended training which she passed on to one of my sisters.
“If we recognise and appreciate the work that midwives do, we will guarantee that the lives of women, children and our nation are safe,” he says.
Rwomukubwe was born on March 2, 1956 in Kabale district into a family of ten, five of them girls. I went to Kyanamira Primary School and later joined Apostles of Jesus Minor Seminary in Moroto in 1973.
Between 1978 and 1986, he studied philosophy at Apostles of Jesus Major Seminary in Langata, Kenya. He worked at a parish in Kenya and taught at the seminary.
For two years between 1988 and 1989, he worked at Garissa Diocese and later worked at Makuba Parish in Bukoba Diocese in Tanzania.
He went for further studies in the US and did a masters degree in cross-cultural ministry, justice and peace.
He also did a doctorate in theology at Gregorian University in Italy between 1992 and 1995, before returning to Kenya where he became the Superior General (equivalent of a Bishop) of the Apostles of Jesus between 1996 and 2002.
In 2003, he joined the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) as deputy executive secretary in charge of finance and administration, helping to streamline finances at the organisation and became the executive director in 2009.
Midwives are God's agents on earth — Dr Kagimu
Unlike animals which can deliver themselves without getting complications, human beings are capable of getting life-threatening complications during and after childbirth.
Prof. Magid Kagimu, the head of Gastroenterology Division at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, says that women bleed a lot after delivery and pregnancy period is always stressful to them.
"Child birth is a process, not an event. Here in Uganda most women come when they are in critical conditions and without urgent medical help from midwives, their complications would lead to the death of a mother and her baby," he explains.
Dr. Kagimu is one of the seven national champions who were recently selected by the Swedish Embassy to run a campaign highlighting the importance of the midwife in increasing access to life-saving care to women during pregnancy, childbirth and in the postpartum period.
"The work of midwives is so delicate, stressful, but enjoyable as a calling. Midwives are God's agents because they ensure our babies are delivered in a healthy state," he notes.
Kagimu, who has been a doctor for 34 years, however, opines that midwives may not be able to do their job if not well trained, adequately facilitated and well paid.
"The government needs to give them this support so that they are motivated to work hard. The support should go to those who are already there in both public and private health centres," he implores.
Asked how he felt when he was selected to be among the seven people and why he accepted to champion the six week campaign, Kagimu could not hide his happiness.
"It's God given for people to recognise you and this means your work is appreciated. But it's also a challenge because you need to keep the good work you are doing and try to improve it," he said.
He added since his main work is to serve God through His people, the campaign when it was explained to him he found it a noble cause and an opportunity to improve on the health of the people.
"I thought it was a continuation was my work," Dr Kagimu, who is the chairman of Islamic Medical Association of Uganda (IMAU), a faith-based, nongovernmental organisation grounded in the wisdom of Islam and striving to combine science with faith in the delivery of quality health services, said.
After nine months, every baby deserves a live mother and every mother a live baby - Mwesigwa
Even as she was starting out in journalism, Catherine Mwesigwa felt a strong need to report on issues concerning women.
“My father always told me about the inequalities that our society visited on women,” she says.
It was much later that she started to engage with safe motherhood and maternal death issues.
Mwesigwa is one of a team of leaders named by the embassy of Sweden in Uganda as champions of the Midwifery4all campaign.
The campaign launched recently focuses on recognising the role of the midwife in saving mothers and babies from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications.
“After nine months of expectation, every baby deserves a live mother and every mother a live baby. Some babies are not that fortunate, neither are some mothers,” she says adding that in most cases, the missing person who would have made a difference to both is the midwife.
“Midwives are central to safe motherhood. We need to applaud them, support them to do this noble job,” she says.
Mwesigwa vitalized the reportage of issues on safe motherhood and maternal death in the media.
The devastating effects of fistula among poor rural women became much clearer to the public when Mwesigwa and her team of journalists sought out the victims and told their harrowing stories.
This debilitating condition has since been demystified, brought to the attention of decision makers and medical solutions sought.
Mwesigwa was also instrumental in establishing a platform through which expert Obstetricians and Gynecologists addressed readers’ concerns through a weekly Question and Answer column in the New Vision newspaper.
Perhaps Mwesigwa’s most critical role has been to train young reporters in covering safe motherhood and maternal death issues.
“I was a young reporter covering parliament when I joined the newsroom. I dealt with a number health policy issues that remained largely abstract until I started working with Mwesigwa,” Irene Nabusoba, an award winning health journalist says.
Mwesigwa’s passion for safe motherhood springs from very personal experiences having nearly lost her life and her first child following a bad drug reaction.
"This experience brought me closer to the reality of maternal mortality,” she says.
She was particularly moved by the lack of knowledge of so many women- including the educated on matters of reproductive health.
This realization set her on a mission to bridge the knowledge gap that existed on this very important subject. It is a job that she has done so well.
Mwesigwa has been able to accomplish this much because of her passion for a career that wasn’t even her first choice.
“I really wanted to become a teacher,” she says.
Her family thought she might do better as a journalist though. They advised her to try a new mass communication course at Makerere University.
She joined the Weekly Topic magazine and in 1995 became sub editor at New Vision and slowly rose through the ranks to become the deputy editor of New Vision.
Throughout her journalism career, Mwesigwa has learnt to give her whole to a job that demands total dedication.
She reiterates her support for the Midwifery4all campaign.
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