PRESS STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

WEDNESDAY 19TH AUGUST 2020

JUDICIAL ENDORSEMENT OF MATERNAL HEALTH RIGHTS IN UGANDA

Kampala – Uganda. Today, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), Prof. Ben Twinomugisha, Rhoda Kukiriza and Inziku Valente with joy welcome the long awaited judgement from the Constitutional Court of Uganda in the case of CEHURD, Prof. Ben Twinomugisha, Rhoda Kukiriza and Inziku Valente vs. Attorney General [Constitutional Petition No. 16 of 2011]. The Constitutional Court agreed with our submissions and all judges accepted all the grounds of the petition. Through this judgement, the right to maternal health care (and the right to health broadly) has been granted a place in Uganda’s Constitution. The judgment recognizes basic maternal health care services and emergency obstetric care.

This suit, filed in 2011, sought to challenge Government’s omission to adequately provide basic maternal health services and commodities in public health facilities as contravening the right to health, rights of women, right to life and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The suit is premised on the wrongful deaths of the late Anguko Jennifer who died on 10th December 2010 in Arua Referral Hospital and the late Sylvia Nalubowa who died on 19th August 2010 in Mityana District Hospital. Both women died during child birth when they needed caesarean sections but failed to access the commodities and human resource required to obtain the same.

Today a panel of 5 (five) judges from the Constitutional Court of Uganda including Mr. Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo DCJ, Mr. Justice Kenneth Kakuru JCC, Mr. Justice F.M.S Egonda Ntende JCC, Mr. Justice Barishaki Cheborion JCC and Mr. Justice Christopher Madrama JCC have upheld the maternal health rights of women and went ahead to declare and order that;

  1. The Government’s omission to adequately provide basic maternal health care services and emergency obstetric care in public health facilities violates the right to health, the rights of women, the right to life and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
  2. The Government should in the next financial year prioritize and provide sufficient funds in the national budget for maternal health care.
  3. The Ministry of health are directed to ensure that all staff who provide maternal health care services in Uganda are fully trained and all health centers are equipped within the next 2 financial years (2020/2021 and 2021/2022)
  4. The Ministry of Health is directed to compile and submit to Parliament, with a copy to Court a full audit report on the status of Maternal health in Uganda at the end of each of the next 2 financial years (2020/2021 and 2021/2022)
  5.  Rhoda Kukiriza and Inziku Valente are awarded 155,000,000/= each as general and exemplary damages for the psychological torture, loss suffered and violation of rights

In his lead judgement Mr. Justice Barishaki Cheborion JCC found that “I have no doubt that the government has made attempts to address the omissions by putting in place policies, programs as reflected in the respondents submissions however for the right to maternal health to be realised, subsequent implementation of all the above mentioned policies and programs, their extension and evaluation has to be done which to a large extent has not been the case. Adverse effects on maternal health impact negatively on society’s wellbeing”  

He also found that “The deaths of Ms Anguko Jennifer at Arua Regional Referral Hospital and Ms Sylvia Nalubowa at Mityana District Hospital were a result of non-availability of basic maternal health services and negligence of Health Workers. The actions caused utmost pain, degrading and cruel treatment of the deceased for the period they spent in the said hospitals fighting for their lives with no hope of survival until they died. This also caused untold suffering and loss to their families”

He also found that “Women suffer a lot due to shortages or short comings in the delivery of maternal health care services caused by stock-outs of maternal health care packages, drugs, professional negligence. Limited budgetary provisions to the health sector all of which deprive them of opportunity to safely deliver babies. Preventable deaths of pregnant women at Government hospitals deprive Women of the right to enjoy and realize their sexual reproductive rights

We appreciate the judiciary for protecting, promoting and fulfilling the rights of women especially concerning their maternal function, indeed the power of the judicial pen has come to light in this case. Thank You

For more information contact: info@cehurd.org and copy in wasswa@cehurd.org or call 0788-882809.

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