LIRA–WHERE EVERY DAY A BABY DIES
February 19, 2014Samuel Senfuka reports that in the last six months, 184 newborns and six mothers have died in Lira, a remote District of Uganda where White Ribbon Alliance is campaigning for life saving emergency health care. These shocking facts emerged during a meeting on 13th February, convened by White Ribbon Alliance Uganda, with Lira’s District Health Officer and his Management Team.
We learned that in the first and second quarters of FY 2013/14, the District officially conducted 5,139 deliveries. However, in the same period there were six maternal and 184 neonatal deaths; 80% of these were stillbirths.
Many of these deaths could be averted if the Government of Uganda kept its promises and allocated funds to equip our Health Centres (III and IV) with the staff, medicines and supplies, operating theatres and blood banks needed for Antenatal Care and Emergency Obstetric and Newborn care (EmONC).
In October 2013, WRA Uganda together with community members and the District Health Officer (DHO) and his team, conducted a health facility assessment in all the nine government health centres in the District. We set out to establish the status of emergency obstetric and newborn care services; our aim was to change the ugly maternal and neonatal situation in Lira.
The DHO has since proposed an allocation of Ushs. 100,000,000 million to renovate the only two operating theatrs at Ogur and Amach (Health Centres IV). This will happen in 2014/2015 so that pregnant women who face obstetric complications can be saved.
To further show his willingness to improve maternal and newborn health, the DHO pledged to prioritize the funds for procurement of equipment in 2014/2015 based on the gaps identified by White Ribbon Alliance during the health facility assessment. This pledge was made during a meeting with the District medicines and supplies procurement and management team, convened by WRA Uganda and its members in Lira district as part of our “ACT NOW TO SAVE MOTHERS” campaign.
According to our health facility assessment report only three out of nine health centres in Lira have resuscitation devices for newborns, making it difficult for midwives to resuscitate babies who have breathing complications at birth.
Only four out of nine health centres had blood pressure machines - despite the fact that high blood pressure causes six per cent of maternal deaths in Uganda.
Again, only four out of nine health centres had a complete delivery instrument set. Not one of the nine facilities had running water in their maternity wards, undermining safe and clean births.
The current maternal and neonatal health situation in Lira gives us a glimpse of what may be happening in other parts of the country. The recently launched Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (RMNCH) Sharpened Plan (2013-2017), published by the Ministry of Health in November 2013, identified labour and delivery management as high impact interventions which reduce both maternal and child mortality, potentially averting 4,262 and 13,533 maternal and child deaths respectively over the plan’s time-frame.
This requires our health centres to be ready with basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care services if they are to meet such targets. If we are to walk the talk, Uganda’s Ministry of Health should request the Ministry of Finance to allocate sufficient funds – which should eventually trickle down to the Districts for delivery of health services. It's equally important that strong accountability mechanisms should be in place to ensure proper utilization of allocated funds.
Sr. Doreen a midwife at Lira Regional Referral Hospital showing a new mother (seated on bed) how to take care of a newborn baby. Photo taken by Senfuka Samuel during a health facility assessment of EmONC at Aromo HC III, October 2013
White Ribbon Alliance Uganda