Press Statement; The Ethics Case

28th November, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Infants put in Harm’s way in a bid to prove a scientific belief!

Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and Partners have today filed a case in the High Court of Uganda challenging the act of subjecting helpless children between 28 days to 12 years of age to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in a bid prove a scientific belief.

This research allegedly seeks to establish whether the use of oxygen is necessary in the treatment of Oxygen deficiency in children. This research process deliberately denies oxygen to these vulnerable children suffering from breathing complications (oxygen deficiency) and in some cases subjected to very low levels of oxygen which is highly life threatening.

It is reported that this trial has led to allegedly 41% deaths in Mulago National Referral Hospital alone, but the research is still being carried out in Mbale, Soroti and Jinja regional referral hospitals.

As Human rights activists, we believe that this infringes fundamental rights including the right to life and yet children are protected under Article 34(2) of the constitution which states that children should not be denied basic needs due to a belief. We believe that the nation has to pick interest in these life threatening scientific trials and the state should invoke its duty to protect citizens subjected to such harsh trials.

The clinical trial is conducted way below the ethical standards for research and contravenes the constitution and laws of Uganda. Worse still, the research did not seek for a Certificate of Approval from National Drug Authority (NDA) which is a requirement prior to conducting any clinical trial on pharmaceuticals in Uganda. 

Such clinical trails are against the set clinical practice guidelines and guidelines of medical practice and research both locally and internationally, given the fact that the doctors swear an oath to do no harm.

We therefore ask the high Court for declarations, interim orders, and permanent relief to stop the conduct of this clinical trial which we deem unethical and falling below the constitutional values of this country. We further ask the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council (UMDPC) and the Uganda human rights commission to investigate the human rights and ethical implications of the clinical trial.

FOR MORE INFORMATION please call 0414532283 or write to info@cehurd.org and copy nsereko@cehurd.org

CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE IN HEALTH

On an eventful Thursday evening of 7th November 2019, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) had its 10 years’ celebrations at Sheraton Kampala Hotel in a memorable event for not only making 10 years of existence but for emerging as a key player in the field of advancing human rights and social justice in health; with a reputation for using bold strategies to realize and expand the right to health.

Clearly this milestone could not have been achieved overnight, it has taken 10 years of persistence, hard work, focus, determination and a clear vision to come this far in pursuit for justice in the health sector. This is backed by Prof. Joe Oloka Onyango, the day’s Keynote speakers’ description of CEHURD as “a vibrant, vivacious and vigorous organisation”.

For years, CEHURD has trodden dusty roads to reach far-end vulnerable communities as well as high-end policy making levels driven by a passion to bridge health gaps.

“What inspired me to embark on this journey was my Mother-a retired nurse and the challenges she went through while practicing, secondly the people who were of great influence in my walk of life and lastly the question of how Lawyers could use the constitutional language to demand for an improved health system” – Mr. Mulumba Moses, Executive Director CEHURD.

It is of no wonder that CEHURD has transformed the advocacy environment around the right to health, communities have become more aware of their right to a proper health care system and in turn demand for it. CEHURD not only deals in legal practice but also translates the theoretical and conceptual health issues into research and advocacy.

“I do not take the 10 years of CEHURD for granted, when two of my former students came to my office and said they had started an organisation aimed at promoting the right to health and human rights, as a founding teacher of Health & the Law and Health law and Policy at Makerere University, I was excited.” – Prof. Ben Twinomugisha, Board Chairperson CEHURD.                                                                                

It was on this day (7th November), that CEHURD launched its Strategic Plan (2020-2024) –Rebound | Innovate | Sustain, which is a compass to the five years ahead.

“It is not only a celebration for the past, it is a celebration for the future now that the strategic plan has been launched. We very much look forward to working closely with CEHURD in these coming years especially in areas of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights” –Mr. Ola Hallgren, Head of Cooperation Embassy of Sweden.

Congratulations CEHURD! To more years of impactful existence.

By Jacqueline Twemanye

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).