Press Release: Landmark Hearing on Maternal Deaths Proceeds in Uganda’s Constitutional Court

(KAMPALA) Today a civil society coalition of more than 40 health rights organizations welcomed the start of Constitutional Court’s hearing of Petition 16 of 2011. This health rights case, filed on March 4, 2011 by the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), was triggered by the preventable deaths of Jennifer Anguko and Sylvia Nalubowa, two women who died while giving birth. The activists claim that Uganda’s government is failing to fulfill fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution, resulting in an epidemic of preventable deaths of women. Constitutional Court dismissed the petition in 2012, on the grounds that the Court lacked standing to hear the case on its merits. CEHURD appealed to the Supreme Court (Constitutional Appeal No. 1 of 2013) and on September 30 2015 the Supreme Court ruled that Constitutional Court’s dismissal was incorrect, and must hear the petition.

More than 16 women die daily in Uganda from preventable causes including hemorrhage, sepsis, unsafe abortion, obstructed labor, and pre-eclampsia. There has been no statistically significant decrease in maternal mortality in Uganda for the last eight years (source: Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016 Key Indicators Report, page 58). Uganda’s severely high rates of teenage pregnancy also contribute to preventable maternal deaths—25% of young women 15-19 in Uganda is pregnant or a mother, one of the highest rates in sub-Saharan Africa, a statistic that has remained unchanged since 2006 (source: Uganda Demographic Health Survey, 2016).

The primary defense argued by Government over the last 8 years the case has been in Court is that Uganda is too poor to fight maternal mortality effectively. Recent evidence contradicts that claim: the FY2019/20Appropriations Bill contains a 20.9% expansion in the overall budget compared with FY2018/19. The increase is largely for Security (increasing from 6.3% to 9.3% of the budget) and Works and Transport (increasing from 14.6% to 16.2%). The Health budget share shrinks from 7.1% to 6.4%. By contrast, “Classified Expenditure and Assets” increased dramatically from UShs 934 billion in FY2018/19 to UShs 2.582 trillion in FY2019/20—the same size as the entire health budget.

Compounding the crisis caused by government under funding, are a series of recent policy shifts. In 2018 Government shut down free maternal health care services provided by Mulago National Referral Hospital, and instead opened a USD25 million super specialized private women’s clinic with no public wing. The private hospital charges exorbitant user fees most pregnant women cannot afford. Although government a decade ago pledged to provide emergency maternal health care services at local level by equipping Health Center IVs with the surgical theatres, health workers and commodities needed to save pregnant women’s lives, that promise has been broken, forcing pregnant women to rely on the national referral hospital.

The corrective actions being sought through this Constitutional Court Petition would help remedy these gross inequities, according to the advocates. “Deaths from maternal mortality could be largely eliminated in Uganda,” said Noor Musisi of CEHURD. “What we are missing is political will.”

Contact: Noor Nakibuuka Musisi, CEHURD 0782 496 681 or Asia Russell, Health GAP 0776 574 729

What a shame! Stealing from the sick?

What a shame! Stealing from the sick? – Nakibuuka Noor Musisi

On the evening of June 17th 2019, I fell short of words. For the first time I watched television past 11:00pm. It was a shocker watching what I refer to as “a well-planned game” happening in my country, moreover in the health sector. I thought to myself, who is behind this, why steal from the sick? All these questions and thoughts ran in my mind. I waited to get responses from the video in vain. What a shame!

Efforts to put an end to this vice have been watered down by the government’s non responsive attitude towards clear evidence like the famous NBS /BBC video titled “stealing from the sick” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d41_BaVygQI.  It is unfortunate that Uganda has shamelessly remained silent over this the ordeal, an indicator, in my opinion that the State has failed to account back to its citizens.

I have worked in the civil society health – human rights sector for close to 10 years. Throughout these years, I have interacted with various civil society organizations, government entities, private actors and development partners among others. These have had various approaches towards ensuring that the end beneficiary whom I will refer to as a rights holder does access better health care services wherever they are. The approaches used have been budget advocacy, trainings, human rights-based approach empowerment of communities to seek services, holding district health assemblies, talk shows, community dialogues, community score cards to mention but a few. While these approaches seem diverse, they all point to ensuring that service provision gets better, that you and I enjoy health care in this country.

On several occasions, and for this particular ordeal, social media has been used by people to express their dissatisfaction.  It is such a powerful tool that information does not only reach a wider part of society (nationally and globally) but the target people. I am very certain that the leadership in this country did view, read and analyse the video as well as reactions from people. My expectation was that the state would act. Unfortunately, to date, we have not received a formal communication from the government on what happened and why. What this means to me is that the state has breached the contract it has with its citizen- the social contract. What a shame!

Like any other citizen, and as a health service user as well as a rights holder, my so many questions have never been answered. I am hesitant to conclude that sections/ agents within the government are involved in stealing our medicine- we the sick. What a shame! Again, one would be hesitant to question why the investigative team was rather stopped (the video is not complete), put under police custody and no case has ever been opened against them.

These happenings have a very huge impact to the health sector now and in the years to come. I am certain that Uganda has all the expertise, resources and tools to put these vices to an end. It is very unfortunate that as a country we are silent yet health facilities have continued to deteriorate at the expense of these few people. Shame my beloved country, shame my government, shame, shame shame!!!. There is still room for improvement, something can always be done and this call goes out to the State to act.

The writer is a human rights advocate and a lawyer at the center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD).

Public shaming of women; an issue of Violence against Women!

Public shaming of women; an issue of Violence against Women!

On the evening of 11th July 2019, the public was startled by a confrontational sermon by Pastor Bugingo of House of prayers ministries that went viral on different social media platforms. In the sermon, the renowned pastor shamed his ex-wife and mother of his children over a disease she had had for close to ten years while the congregation cheered on. This unfortunately is a buildup on many other stories that are left in passing and continue to be normalized in Uganda today.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Violence against Women (VAW) as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.  Violence against Women takes different forms including; Intimate partner violence which may be physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; forced and early marriages; female genital mutilation and trafficking. In Uganda today, Violence against Women is reported as remaining on the high with more than 51 percent of women experiencing physical violence where intimate partners are reported as the largest number of perpetuators at 60 percent (Uganda Demographic and Health Survey of 2016 reported).

While different players are key in fighting the vice of public shaming of women, the state has the obligation to protect women from these violations as indicated under section 128 (3) of the Penal Code Act, Cap 120 that clearly stipulates  that “any person who, intending to insult the modesty of any woman or girl, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen by such woman or girl, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman or girl, commits a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for one year.” Furthermore, section 179 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 120 states that “any person who by print, writing, painting, effigy or by any means otherwise than solely by gestures, spoken words or other sounds, unlawfully punishes any defamatory matter concerning another person, with intent to defame that other person, commits the misdemeanor termed libel.”

Public shaming of women can never become the new normal as it’s not only a violation of human rights but also has grave effects on survivors (psychological consequences, vulnerabilities to diseases), children (injuries to children) and society (added health care costs).  

Joselyn Nakyeyune

Program Officer, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD).

WHY SEXUAL ABUSE AT SCHOOL?

It is mid-year now and children are in school for their second term, parents have paid school fees and some are completing the school fees balances. However there are some students who have not reported this term, for being pregnant, stigma or acquired diseases and some were expelled due to sexual violence accessioned to them while at school.

Some of these Children are below the age of 18 years, therefore they cannot consent to any sexual act or violence, in law, this is termed as defilement. In Uganda this vice is on rise especial in school, where teachers and their support staff continuously sexually abuse young girls placed under their care.

In the report or study of ministry of Education and sports, clearly indicated that 69.1 of children in private schools have been defiled by their teachers. If the said children do don’t drop out of schools, their performance declines because of psychological torture, stigma hence poor grades.Mostof these children are in boarding schools where their parents placed them under the care of school authorities.

Article 34(1) of the Constitution of the republic of Uganda gives the parents and school authority a constitution right to care for the children under their care. This has not been the case where many children are sexually  abuse in the school premises, sometimes children are silenced which affect them physiologically, emotional, leading to low grades or performance  which fact the teachers and parents in most cases do not realized in  early days.

 Under Article 34(4) of the Constitution of the republic of Uganda, provides that children are entitled to be protected from social or economic exploitation …’ Many Schools have failed to protect young girls while at school from being sexually abused, this is mainly because of system gaps, which ministry of education has continuously failed to regulate.

Further Ministry of Education has not put in place any mechanism of helping the young girls receive psycho social support or made any effort to follow up that these girls who have been sexually abused while at school are supported to continue with their education, and or are compensated by the school authority and the perpetrator.

 Under Article 34 (2) requires the State responsibility for children to receive basic education, by its failure to supervise both private and government schools to improve school environment which leads to sexual violation is a clear indicator of the government’s role and responsibility to see to it that all children get the basic education.

The Government’s failure to punish school authorities where this vice is found has  led to the wide spread of the same leading to many girls get un wanted pregnancy, school drop outs , HIV/ AIDS , low or poor performance .

In Conclusion, this is a call to all school authorities and the government to create an environment where children under their care are protected from any abuse for their well being, growth and better performance.

By Ms. Namaganda Jane

Program Associate at Center for Health, Human rights and Development (CEHURD).