Health workers tip government on safe abortion


Medical practitioners have urged government to relax restrictions on abortion and make reproductive health services available to the youth, if abortion is to be managed in the country.

The health workers during a national conference on safe abortion last week said most foetal terminations are as a result of unwanted pregnancies yet little guidance is offered, especially to young women in schools. The young women always end up in desperate measures to get rid of the pregnancies.

Strict law
Currently, the Ugandan law does not permit abortion except when the mother’s life is in danger and neither are medics facilitated to educate young girls about reproductive health issues and rights.

This is in addition to government ratifying several international treaties, conventions and agreements including the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action that recognises that abortion should be safe and available to the full extent of the law.

“Restrictive laws do not prevent abortions. New technologies like the vacuum aspiration and Medical Abortion bring safe abortion care closer to women and governments need to honour their obligations to protect, promote and fulfil human rights,” said Dr E. Brookman-Amissah, the vice president for Ipas Africa, one of the leading organisations in reducing maternal health in the continent.

In Uganda, World Health Organisation estimates that 300,000 women carry out unsafe abortions every year, many of whom risking their lives and leading to complications including death. However, even safe methods of abortion in the early months of a pregnancy are not readily available and are quite often expensive.

Avail drugs
Dr Charles Kiggundu, a gynecologist and obstetrician with Mulago Hospital, said threatening girls from abortion does not solve anything as they are usually determined to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy and urged government to make available drugs like Misoprostol for safe abortions.

The Commissioner for the Reproductive Health at the Ministry of Health, Mr Anthony Mbonye, said unsafe abortion still remains a challenge which will require a multi-faceted approach to address. He urged, especially parliamentarians, to increase funding for the health sector in order to tackle such issues.


Ugandan Activists Pressure Government to Reduce Maternal Deaths

By Andrew Green

KAMPALA – Uganda’s health activists are demanding an increase in skilled medical workers to save the lives of the country’s mothers. An advocacy coalition has kept national attention focused on the issue for more than a year. But, as 16 women continue to die every day from complications giving birth, activists have yet to realize any new funding for health workers.

Tragic case recalled

Jennifer Anguko bled to death in a government hospital in October 2010, waiting to deliver her child. As her husband, Valente Inziku, begged health workers for attention, he says his wife told him she was dying and then lost consciousness. By the time Inziku convinced someone to help, it was too late. Their unborn child died as well. More than a year later, Inziku says he is still struggling to raise their older three children alone.

“How am I going to bring up the children? That’s now the question I’m asking myself,” Inziku wondered.

Calls for change

Anguko’s death became one of the rallying points for a coalition of Ugandan health activists to reduce maternal mortality. Uganda has seen maternal death rates almost cut in half in the past 20 years, but it remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to give birth. The United Nations Population Fund says Uganda registers 310 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

Activists argue the majority of maternal deaths could be prevented with more health workers and consistent access to medical supplies.

Uganda has 2,500 government health centers, but nearly 50 percent of the positions are unfilled. That means at least one out of every two pregnant women has no skilled medical person to help them give birth. The U.N. Population Fund says at least 2,000 more midwives are needed to address the situation.

Without more midwives and nurses in the system, Rukia Nansubuga, a grassroots organizer in Kampala, says expectant mothers will continue to suffer and die, so they will not even go to medical centers.

“They fear to go to health centers, because the health centers are not well-facilitated. The health workers are not well-facilitated,”Nansubuga said. “The ones who go there are neglected.”

Civil society groups joined forces a year ago to more effectively pressure the government. Robina Biteyi is the national coordinator of the White Ribbon Alliance. “This is a very good development, because we have all worked on maternal and newborn health, but separately,” she noted. “We felt we needed to come together and make sure we have more strength in demanding for accountability for maternal, newborn and child health.”

The coalition took the unusual step last year of suing the government in constitutional court, arguing that women’s right to life was undermined by health worker shortages and a lack of supplies. They also initiated an international resolution calling for governments to prioritize safe motherhood, which was passed in April at a meeting in Kampala.


Although the efforts have raised the profile of the maternal mortality crisis, they have not yet resulted in a concrete victory. In early June, the constitutional court threw out the case against the government, saying it was a political issue.

Sylveria Alwoch, of the Uganda National Health Consumers Organization, says the decision was a setback, but it will not undermine the coalition’s larger efforts.

“We are still there and we are going to continue advocating. Advocacy doesn’t end in one day,” said Alwoch. “And, when you get disappointed, it doesn’t mean you go and cover your head and stop there.”

Despite the court setback and the Ministry of Health’s announcement that there would be no new funding for health workers this year, the groups are continuing to lobby the government ahead of the release of the budget this month, hoping money will be reallocated for hiring.


Activists hold a peaceful march in the capital Kampla to protest the delay by a Ugandan court to deliver a ruling in a landmark lawsuit regarding the cases of two women who unattended bled to death during childbirth

WHO will set generics apart from counterfeits

By Vineeta Pandey

World Health Organisation (WHO) has adopted a resolution to clearly define counterfeit medical products (CMP) so as to set them apart from genuine generic drugs.

The resolution follows intense lobbying by India at the World Health Assembly (WHA) last week and is seen as a major diplomatic win. The country has worked through back-channel ways at the inter-governmental level for almost two years to pressurise the international organisation.

This also means WHO will limit its role to public health issues and not get into the debate of intellectual property rights (IPR) raised by multi-national companies to block generic drugs from India and other countries from getting into international markets.
Generic drug shipments from India have often been seized at European Union ports on charges of infringing IPR and therefore qualifying as counterfaeit or spurious products.

Sources said innovator pharma companies have used multiple routes, including raising IPR issue with WHO through its arm International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce, to stop generic drug consignments from India.
In 2009, for instance, a Brazil-bound consignment from India was stopped at Amsterdam.

“The authorities applied definition of CMP for these generic drugs as the history of such drugs showed patents in EU. Hence, they termed it as infringement of their IPR and seized them,” said a Union health and family welfare ministry official.

Such seizures forced India and some other countries to aggressively take up the matter at WHA. Expressing concern over the involvement of WHO’s Western Pacific Regional Organisation in the enforcement activities relating to combating CMPs, India strongly argued that WHO was mixing up issues of public health and private IPR in the context of defining counterfeit drugs.

The Indian delegation, backed by Brazil, Thailand and other BRICS and SEARO nations, sought to limit WHO’s role only to public health and said it should concentrate on affordability and accessibility of drugs rather than be engaged in IPR enforcement issues.

WHO now appears to have put in place a new mechanism with the consensus of all member states to clearly define CMP as “substandard, spurious, falsely-labelled, falsified” drugs to bring uniformity for better global acceptance of these definitions without interrupting the supply of genuine generic medical products in the world.

India is now pressurising WHO to give more funds to strengthen the national regulatory authority for drugs.



By Racheal Aduk (

Today the Registrar for Constitutional Court, His Worship Erias Kisawuzi promised to deliver the ruling on the maternal health petition before a delegation of civil society advocates who are fighting maternal mortality in Uganda.

Nakibuuka Noor From CEHURD listening to the Registrar as he responds to the CSO complaint

“The maximum days of delivering this ruling will be 14 days from Today. It can be less, it could even be ready by next week” His worship Erias Kisawuzi Said.

This announcement follows a march to Constitutional Court organized by the Coalition to Stop Maternal Mortality in Uganda on Tuesday May 22. The protesters, including more than 150 activists, grassroots home based care providers, and community leaders, were objecting to a 7-month delay by the Constitutional Court.  Mr. Kisawuzi apologized to the protesters on Tuesday for the delay by Court to deliver the ruling (see: “Judiciary Apologizes over Delayed Maternal Health Ruling,” Daily Monitor 23 May 2012).

“The Court is finally responding to concerned citizens,” said Nakibuuka Noor Musisi of CEHURD. “We appreciate that. Maternal mortality is a crisis in this country, and Court has the power to change this crisis”

Constitutional Petition No.16 of 2011 argues that by not providing essential medical commodities and health services to pregnant women, the government is violating the Constitutional rights of Ugandans. The Petition highlights the cases of Sylvia Nalubowa and Jennifer Anguko, both of whom died unnecessarily in childbirth.

CEHURD filed this petition on 3rd Match 2011 and the same has not been heard up to date.  On 11th March 2011 the Attorney General filed a response, on 27th May 2011 Scheduling conference took on before you. On 7th July 2011 the case was fixed for hearing but unfortunately it was not heard due to lack of quorum. On 20th July the case was fixed again for hearing but the Attorney general requested for more time to secure two affidavits so the case was adjourned to 28th September 2011 on which date the case wasn’t heard due to lack of quorum.

On 26th October 2011 the case came up for hearing but an objection was raised to which the justices stated that they will be giving a ruling on the objection raised by the state Attorney on short notice.

NGOs give EU commission a beating over anti-counterfeit pact


BRUSSELS – Amnesty Intentional, Oxfam, Reporters without Borders as well as internet rights groups and the Council of Europe all spoke out against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) at a European Parliament hearing on Wednesday (11 April).

“The vision set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is at stake,” warned Marianne Mollmann, senior policy advisor of the London-based organisation human rights group Amnesty International.

Mollmann said the trade agreement threatens the right to the freedom of expression, the right to health, the right to due process and fair trial, and the right of an author to benefit from the protection of moral and material interests resulting from any scientific and literary production.

“These are all human rights that need to be balanced [in Acta], and they are not,” said Mollmann, adding that the trade agreement shifts liability of copyright infringement onto service providers and encourages private entities to enforce and police its users.

The NGOs raised a number of issues surrounding the controversial agreement, qualifying it as dangerous for promoting over-policing, unreasonable levels of surveillance, risks to privacy, and even development.

None of the NGOs present at the hearing had been invited and asked to provide input during the treaty’s negotiation, creating a cloak of secrecy that some believe has further undermined its legitimacy.

As an international trade agreement, Acta is supposed to help countries work together to tackle large-scale intellectual property rights violations, according to the European Commission. It also targets counterfeit goods and generic medicines.

But mounting public pressure and protests from around Europe may derail its ratification by the European Parliament, scheduled for either June or July.

EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht last week requested the parliament refrain from any ratification until the treaty has been scrutinised by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), a process that could take months.

The European Parliament’s international trade committee, however, voted on 29 March not to send the treaty to the ECJ.

NGOs refute Commission’s claims on Acta
The commission claims the agreement is in line with European fundamental rights such as the freedom of expression and information or data protection and the right to property including that of intellectual property.

But experts at Wednesday’s parliament hearing, organised by Dutch Liberal MEP Marietje Schaake and Bulgarian Socialist MEP Ivailo Kalfin, all refuted the commission’s claims, arguing instead that there is a clear imbalance in the favour of intellectual property rights rather than natural rights.

The treaty mentions intellectual property rights 43 times. Fundamental rights are not mentioned at all, while freedom of expression is mentioned twice as a principle rather than as a right, said Gabrielle Guillemin, a legal officer at the London-based NGO Article 19.

“The criminal provisions under Acta lack the legal certainty required under international law, under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights as well as article 52 of the EU Charter of fundamental rights,” she explained.

The commission also says the treaty would safeguard European businesses, promote growth, stimulate innovation and create and protect millions of jobs. Again, experts at the hearing refuted the claims.

Sebastiano Toffaleti of the Pan European ICT & eBusiness Network for small businesses (PIN-SME), which represents some 50,000 small-ish IT companies, said the treaty would instead undermine European enterprise and innovation.

“Acta would hamper innovation and growth of SMEs that develop content and market it online,” said Toffaleti.

According to Toffaleti, criminal liability threats in the treaty would deter internet service providers (ISPs) from hosting products developed by SMEs irrespective whether the claims are legitimate or not.

Meanwhile, a US-based study, entitled The Sky is Rising , concluded that the entertainment industry grew by 50 percent in the last decade. The overall industry, including books, music, video games and films, grew from €341 billion in 1995 to €567 billion in 2010.

The study infers that the commission’s argument that Acta is needed to safeguard and promote such sectors is not based on fact.

“More content is being produced than ever before,” said Mike Masnick, who conducted the study. “More content is available to the public than ever before. In short, we found that the overall industry is thriving.”