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Minister Baryomunsi haunted by teen mum’s death

By Carol Natukunda, Eddie Ssejjoba

Added 31st October 2018 08:11 AM

Baryomunsi, the housing and urban development minister, narrated how the 14-year-old sought medical care when it was too late.

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Baryomunsi, the housing and urban development minister, narrated how the 14-year-old sought medical care when it was too late.

Dr. Chris Baryomunsi. PHOTOS: Eddie Ssejjoba

Twenty years since he last practiced medicine, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi is still haunted by a teen mother who died in his hands.

Baryomunsi, the housing and urban development minister, narrated how the 14-year-old sought medical care when it was too late.

“When I was still practicing medicine, a 14-year-old came to the labour ward. She was pregnant and bleeding profusely,” he recalled.

“As we were preparing to save her life, she died in our hands. She had been brought in by friends. On further inquiry, she had bled at home before coming to the hospital,” Baryomunsi told a conference of the Network of African Parliamentary Committees of Health in Kampala.

“That story still haunts me. This is the tragedy we face everyday,” the minister added.

According to the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey(UDHs), 25% of pregnancies are among adolescents.

Uganda’s maternal mortality ratio, although reducing, is still high, at 336/100,000 live births.  One third of these maternal deaths occur among adolescent mothers with the deaths twice as high among girls aged 10 to 14 years, according to the United Nations Population Fund ( UNFPA ).

Do policy makers care?

Baryomunsi particularly took a swipe at policy makers, imploring them to talk about family planning and save the lives of women and girls.

 

 "When campaigning, we tell people: vote for me to improve your lives.  We are voted into Parliament to represent our people. We should be able to speak for our mothers who are dying,"  said Baryomunsi

“This young girl never had a chance to get family planning. She probably never got sex education. She probably dropped out of school. Why should a 14-year-old die for something so preventable? Why shouldn’t she become MP, minister or a doctor?” Baryomunsi asked.

UNFPA estimates that one third of maternal deaths and 20% of child deaths can be averted by use of modern contraception. The agency adds that women who wait at least two years before becoming pregnant again are more likely to survive childbirth.

Referring to the high unmet need for family planning in Uganda which stands at 28%, Baryomunsi  stressed  that parliament had the power to change this.

“We make laws. We shape public opinion. If you are a Member of Parliament and you speak negatively about family planning, you discourage uptake. If you speak positively, people will embrace it. How you use power is important,” he said.

Baryomunsi also challenged legislators to monitor  Uganda’s FP 2020 commitments, with just two years to the deadline. FP2020 was set as a goal to reach 120 million women who need contraceptives in 69 focus countries, Uganda inclusive, by the year 2020.

" We have a cardinal responsibility  as MPS to make sure the FP 2020 commitments are fulfilled. We need to follow up and make sure they are reflected in our policies and budgets."

Baryomunsi’s address inspired passionate appeals from other speakers who called on policy makers to “care more" in light of several studies that haven proven that maternal deaths causes are preventable.

 Dr. Baryomunsi and Prof. Omaswa, the Executive director of the African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation 

Prof. Francis Omaswa, the Executive director of the African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation  said:

" When mothers die in labour, we keep singing that God has taken them, yet we are the cause.

"Do we care for each other? If we don’t care, Afruca will not go far. Are we conscious of the decisions we make?"

The conference held under the theme "building the capacity of African policy makers for reproductive health and family planning" was orgained by Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office in conjuction with the Network of African Parliamentary Committees of Health. It seeks to provide space for discussions among policy makers and build political will to support family planning in the context of achieving  Sustainable Development Goals.

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