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Civil Suit Revamps Maternal Health Service Provision in Nakaseke

On 5th May 2011, Nanteza Irene, now deceased, went into labour at her home. She was taken to hospital by her husband on that same afternoon and upon arrival; she was checked and then admitted to the maternity ward by the nurse on duty. However, the patient, now deceased, started having major complications and the nurse on duty concluded that she needed immediate attention from the doctor on call who was inexplicably unavailable. After eight (8) hours in the hospital without proper medical care for her haemorrhage and ruptured uterus, she passed away.

Nakaseke Hospital Main Administration Block
Nakaseke Hospital Main Administration Block

 

On 30 April 2015, the High Court of Uganda at Kampala rendered a judgment on a suit brought against the Nakaseke District Local Administration for the violation of Nanteza Irene’s maternal health rights. The plaintiffs were awarded general damages for the sum of UGX 35 million with an interest of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of judgement until full payment.

To follow up on these directions and document the impact of civil suit no. 111 of 2012 on maternal health service provision at Nakaseke district hospital that was brought by CEHURD and the deceased’s family, a team of seven from CEHURD embarked on a journey to Nakaseke district on January 14th 2016.
We were able to meet a number of people including the Deputy CAO, In-Charge Human Resources at the District, the Administrator-Nakaseke Hospital, 3 VHTs, 2 community people, a Parish chairman and a district health inspector.

Part of the CEHURD team interviewing a community member
Part of the CEHURD team interviewing a community member

According to the district locals, there has been a very significant improvement in maternal health services at the hospital since CEHURD filed the case to the extent that no maternal death has been reported at Nakaseke hospital. There has also been a renovation of the Hospital infrastructure; a new wing of the hospital was opened up and the hospital now owns a working ambulance.

The new wing of the hospital
The new wing of the hospital

However, there are a number of challenges still facing the hospital including; the lack of medicines and also the shortage of medical staff and equipment. On a lighter note however, the district administration is quite interested in establishing a working relationship with CEHURD to implement the content of the judgment which they believe goes beyond cash payment.

Kampala International University takes trophy for the moot competition 2015.

DSC_4080After months of preparation, the day had geared up and the 6 university teams were set to compete in the biggest and most sought after law students competition in Uganda. This years’ National Inter-University Constitutional Law Moot was held at Makerere University School of law for a full day on Friday October 30, 2015. The teams from the different universities, who believed were the cream of the cream for the competition, were already at the venue by 8:30 am ready to prove prowess in legal knowledge and shortly joined by over 14 judges with the lead Judge being Justice Kenneth Kakuru.
The teams after the competition                       The Competition involved only Ugandan Universities that were accredited to teach the Law and each team consisted of three students.”I would like to congratulate Kampala International University that won the overall price as well as Best Memorial, Makerere University that came second, Nkumba University, Uganda Christian University, Bishop Stuart University and Islamic University in Uganda upon competing in the Moot. mentioned Mr.Zeere James, a legal officer with Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development, the memorials submitted were of exceptional quality and the judges confessed the difficulty they had when selecting the winner.” He continued.

CEHURD has taken lead in building capacities of lawyers in the country and especially encouraged them to embrace taking strategic litigation and probono services to communities who need them in plenty, Uganda being a low developed nation with majority of the people living below the poverty line, there is a need for lawyers to give free legal aid.

“It was evident that submissions, arguments particularly oral submissions revealed that the quality of legal training being received by students in Uganda today has significantly improved and the students demonstrated immense knowledge and skill under pressure, while interacting with the very complex problem that was presented to them.” mentioned Mr.Kabanda David the Programmes coordinator at CEHURD. One Senyonga Simon from Makerere University emerged the Best oralist and as organisational culture, on top of the general prize, he received an entitlement to a two month internship with the Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), to further grow his career in the field.

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The Competition for these awards was very stiff, as all the teams presented their best and demonstrated adequate preparation and competence. This is the second competition after the pioneer competition held in 2014 that saw Uganda Christian University take the trophy. This activity is organised by CEHURD with financial support from KIOS and key partnerships from different university law schools and established structures as this year Makerere Moot Society took lead while last year. “CEHURD remains committed to engaging students and training them in the litigation of issues relating to the right to health before the Courts of Law in Uganda. We believe in the ability of the students to emerge as the defenders of access to justice and rule of law in a Country where Courts of Judicature are quickly becoming the major front for the protection of public interest. ” emphasised Mr.Kabanda David the Programmes coordinator at

Mr. Kabanda promised that there will be a ( 3rd) National Inter-University Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition next year. With such competitions, students are exposed to the litigation of aspects relating to access to health services and commodities in the context of the right to health, the freedom to access information and the right to participate within the framework of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.and the organisers noted that each submission was scored on the basis of quality of analysis of the issues involved, persuasiveness of the arguments, logic and reasoning, writing, knowledge of the facts, application of the Law and extent of the research.

Margaret Katasi

Communications Officer

CEHURD

JUDGEMENT: Supreme Court orders the Constitutional Court to hear Maternal Health Cases

The judgment struck down a 2012 ruling by the Constitutional Court that it had no mandate to hear a case regarding the alleged violation of health rights and the rights of women.

The case had been filed by families of two pregnant women who died in childbirth and the Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) against the Attorney General in 2011 (Constitutional Petition No. 16 of 2011), arguing that non-provision of maternal health services in Uganda violated the Constitution.

The Attorney General argued on preliminary objection that issues relating to health rights were “political questions”—matter that the Judiciary had no authority to address. Constitutional Court agreed with the State’s objection and dismissed the case.

The Supreme Court’s ruling struck down the Constitutional Court’s judgment, and means the original case can now be heard on its merits.

“With great respect to the Constitutional Court, I think they misunderstood what was required of the court. I do not think the court was required to determine, formulate or implement the health policies of government. In my view, the court is required to determine whether the government has provided or taken all practical measures to ensure the basic medical services to the population. In this case it is maternal services in issue” Bart M Katureebe, Chief Justice

 

 

Supreme Court to deliver Judgment on Maternal Health Rights in Uganda

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Uganda is on Friday 30th October, 2015 at 9.30a.m expected to deliver Judgment on whether maternal health rights are justifiable in Uganda.

In a case filed by the Center for health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), Mr. Inziku Valenti, and Ms. Rhoda Kukiriza against the government of Uganda, the petitioners sought remedies for non-provision of basic maternal health commodities in public health facilities in Uganda that led to death of their loved ones.

CEHURD and its co-petitioners argued that the public are affected by the non-provision of basic maternal health commodities in government health facilities, and that the imprudent and unethical behavior of health workers towards expectant mothers was unconstitutional and an abuse of poor women’s rights to access health services.

The petitioners relied on evidence that;

  1. The death of a one Sylvia Nalubowa (daughter of Ms. Rhoda Kukiriza) in Mityana hospital due to non-availability of the basic maternal health kits in the district hospital and the unethical behavior of the health workers towards her violated her constitutional right to life and health.
  2. The death of Anguko Jennifer (wife to Mr. Inziku Valente) in a regional referral hospital in Arua also due to non-provision of the basic maternal health commodities and the reluctance of the health workers towards this expectant mother leading to her death was an infringement of her rights to life and health guaranteed under the constitution of Uganda.
  3. Non provision of the basic maternal health commodities to expectant mothers (evidence gathered from community health facilities) and the failure on the part of health workers to exercise the requisite health care leads to death of children hence an infringement of their rights guaranteed under the Articles 22, 33 and 34 of the constitution.

The constitutional Court absconded from hearing the merits of the case on a preliminary objection raised by the attorney General’s Lawyer that the Court did not have the authority to handle matters of that gravity. The court was of the opinion that the issues the petitioners had put to court were of a political nature that necessitated the intervention of the Executive to allocate resources to the health sector and none of courts business to intervene.

As a matter of fact and law, CEHURD, Ms. Rhoda Kukiriza and Mr. Izinku proceeded to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court on the basis that the Constitutional Court erred in law in refusing to listen to the merits of the case. It is this decision that Court will be making Judgment on Friday 30th October, 2015 at the Supreme Court of Uganda.

The Judgment is particularly important because the Ugandan Constitution does not provide for a right to health and in addition makes no commitments or priorities for health financing for primary health care for Ugandans from a legal perspective.

High-Court