Antenatal care coverage dropped from 90% first visit to 52% last year.
PIC: Expectant mothers waiting at Karambi HCIII ahead of their delivery time. (John Thawithe)
At least eight mothers have recently died during child birth in various parts of Kasese district, sending shock waves and panic among the district leaders.
The latest incident occurred when 28-year-old Lydia Mbindule, the wife of the Kyondo sub-county LCIII chairman, Juvenal Muke, breathed her last at Kagando Hospital while delivering her fourth child.
Mbindule, commonly known as Nya Edigar (Edigar's mother), allegedly died of excessive bleeding.
Dr Asingya Kapuru of Kagando was unavailable when New Vision tried to call him today, but a hospital source said Mbindule died of overbleeding after delivering a healthy baby.
"The midwives tried all they could, but were frustrated by lack of blood," the source said.
Mbindule's remains were laid to rest on Friday at her ancestral home in Kinyabisiki village, Kyondo sub-county.
Baby taken orphanage
Peter Baluku, the administrator for the Catholic of Kasese-funded Bridge For Peace Orphanage Centre, where Mbindule baby was taken for care, told mourners that in two weeks, the orphanage had received eight orphans whose mothers had died during delivery.
"Nsibambi Orphanage is also taking care of other orphans. The situation is bad. We need your prayers," Baluku said during Mbindule's burial
While addressing the mourners, the Kasese district chairman, Geoffrey Sibendire Bigogo, implored stakeholders to support his administration in lobbying a blood bank in the district, saying most maternal deaths in the district occur due to lack of blood in hospitals.
Blood used in Kasese comes from Buhinga Regional Hospital in Fort Portal municipality, which is 45 miles away.
"Every time I go out of the district, people ask me, ‘why are so many mothers in your district dying during child birth?'" Bigogo, told mourners.
The chairperson for the Inter-religious committee in Kasese district the Rev. Yongeza Mukonzo, cautioned the mourners against linking deaths to witchcraft, saying the practice disturbs the peace of the dead.
Blood stocks fair- DHO
However, the district health officer (DHO), Dr Yusufu Baseka, told New Vision that the blood stocks in the district are "relatively ok."
Baseka attributed the maternal deaths partly to various factors, including uncontrolled hypertension and blood clotting.
"If a pregnant women's blood pressure is too high and she suffers blood clots due to delayed access to a health facility, the chances of survival during delivery are low," Baseka said.
He urged expectant mothers to seek early health services from qualified health workers.
Baseka also said maternal mortality is caused by delay of the woman seeking help, using herbal medication, refusal of treatment or admission and refusal to be transferred to higher facilities.
"Maternal deaths also occur due to lack of transport from home to health facilities, transport between health facilities, lack of blood products, supplies and consumables and inadequate appropriate staffing," Baseka said in a district performance report he recently presented at a Rwenzori regional review performance meeting convened by Baylor Uganda at Kalya Courts in Fort Portal municipality.
Expressing concern at the maternal deaths, the district, the secretary social services, Ruth Kabugho warned women against delivering at home.
"Some of them who deliver a child or two at home, assume that they will also be lucky the next time, little knowing that each pregnancy is a potential killer," Kabugho said..
According to the assistant district health officer (ADHO), John Masereka, supervised deliveries in the district are 55%, only slightly below the national 56% while maternal mortality rate (MMR) stands 122/ 100,000, down from 174/100,000.
With more than 100 health facilities in Kasese district, it would be expected that maternal and new-born mortality is low, but this has turned out to be the opposite.
There are 113 health ventres (HCs) that include 63 HCIIs, 43HCIIIs, fourHCIVs and three hospitals.
Maternal and neo-natal health care have also increased from 55% to 71% since 2016.
Antenatal care coverage dropped from 90% on first visit to 52% last year.
Under the maternal and neo-natal healthcare (MNCH) programme by Save the Children, the district chairman, Bigogo, disclosed plans to meet senior midwives and medical doctors in Kasese to design strategies of curbing the increasing maternal mortality rates in the area.
Kabugho noted that many mothers find it hard to easily reach maternal health services through the mountainous terrain of Kasese.
Masereka, said the district was finalising a concept paper for submission to UNICEF and other development partners for support to arrest the situation.
According to Masereka, though the district recently recruited midwives, their capacity to handle emergency obstetric care was still inadequate, saying strategy is aimed at addressing that gap and also to solicit equipment.