It is important to note that for every woman who dies, 30 to 50 women suffer injury, infection, or disease and more so evidence indicates that infants whose mothers die while giving birth tend to die before celebrating their second birthdays than infants whose mothers survive.
By Brian Asiimwe
While Uganda and the rest of the world at large recently joined hands to celebrate the contribution of women and mothers in the socio, political and economic fields, we still have a high maternal burden with recent estimates revealing a maternal mortality rate between 435 and 550 deaths per 100,000 live births, resulting in over 6,000 maternal deaths in Uganda each year.
It's also important to note that for every woman who dies, 30 to 50 women suffer injury, infection, or disease and more so evidence indicates that infants whose mothers die while giving birth tend to die before celebrating their second birthdays than infants whose mothers survive.
Health care providers list poor utilisation of health services, including failure to attend antenatal care and delays in seeking care at health facilities during labor as major factors contributing to maternal deaths.
This is complimented by the long distances that mothers have to travel to health facilities, including poor referral and transport systems. All this plus lack of proper decision-making at household level, poor male involvement, affects women health seeking behaviors during delivery, emergencies and access to maternal health services.
In addition, the quality of health services offered in facilities is also a barrier to quality care, specifically in regard to inadequate drugs and equipment, delays by health staff to attend to mothers, and lack of skilled staff especially at lower health facilities.
For example the proportion of facilities providing appropriate Emergency Obstetric Care (EmOC) is still low and so is access to post natal care within first week of delivery, which stands at 26%.
The national met need for EmOC is 40% yet about 15% of all pregnancies develop life threatening complications that require EmOC, more so in those that conceived too early (under 18) or too late (above 35 years).
It's also important to note that only 11.7% of women deliver in fully functional comprehensive EmOC facilities and yet our referral systems remain weak with availability of essential equipment, supplies and commodities still at challenge.
However in the last 20 years Uganda has witnessed improvements in maternal and child health, during the 15th session of the African Union on "Maternal, Infant, and Child Health and Development in Africa" which was held in Kampala in July 2010.
The Ugandan government announced that Uganda would not meet MDG 5 by 2015, blaming slow progress on corrupt health care workers and insufficient funding; up to until now Uganda is yet to abide by the Abuja Declaration to assign 15 percent of national budget to health care because the current total health sector allocation is around 7% of the government budget.
Research has also shown that healthcare before, during and immediately following childbirth can go a long way in preventing maternal deaths. In line with the Health Sector Strategic Plan, the Ugandan government committed to promote life-saving maternal health strategies to improve the quality of life for mothers and families.
However such promises should be put into practice for example it is important for the government to strengthen health systems most especially in the lower level facilities by recruiting competent and well-motivated health workers with reliable infrastructures that support health service delivery with clear emphasis on EmOC services.
Development partners on the other hand are also called upon to rally full and unconditional support to the national and local partners working tirelessly in the health sectors to empower the communities to promote and embrace all methods aimed at the total reduction of maternal mortality.
The writer is a health researcher