Press Statement: Release Obiga Patrick from IHK jail today – #FreeObiga

FreeObiga

Download press statement here

Kampala –Uganda –Today the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and Ms.
Rose Obiga filed a case with Uganda’s High court in Kampala seeking for a court order for the release of
Mr. Patrick Obiga who has been illegally imprisoned and detained at International Hospital Kampala (IHK) in Namuwongo.

On the 4th day of August, 2016 Mr. Patrick Obiga –an assistant operations officer with Hash Security while on duty supervising his colleagues got an accident and while unconscious was rushed to IHK in
Namuwongo for emergency treatment. Mr. Obiga was given an emergency operation which successfully
brought him back to life. On the 22nd day of August, 2016, health workers recommended his discharge from hospital.

Mr. Obiga was charged a sum of over 38 million (Thirty eight million Uganda Shillings) as fees for his
treatment. His family has been able to pay over 20 million (Twenty million Uganda Shillings) in installments. Despite the partial payment and Mr. Obiga’s plea to be discharged to look for the outstanding balance, he
remains incarcerated at the Hospital.

This act of detaining and imprisoning patients in health facilities is unconstitutional and violates
fundamental human rights guaranteed in the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. In this instance, IHK is in continuous violation of Mr. Patrick Obiga’s right to liberty, right to be free from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. These violations are also in breach of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, that Parliament passed recently!

IHK can recover its out standing balances following due process of law rather than abusing rights of
patients.

WE DEMAND THE RELEASE OF OBIGA PATRICK FROM IHK JAIL TODAY!

We appeal to the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioner’s Council to:

  • Urgently make a communication on how to regulate practices of private health service providers in
    recovering their costs without subjecting patients to incarceration
  • Review files of all patients detained illegally by IHK and other private health facilities and make
    arrangements for their immediate discharge

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

Launching the standards and guidelines on unsafe abortions to confront the public health crisis in Uganda

The Ministry of health launched the “Standards and Guidelines for the Reduction of Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Due to Unsafe abortion in Uganda on 4th April 2015.” According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) 2011, Uganda has a maternal mortality ration of 438 per 100,000 live births, 26 percent of these deaths are attributed to unsafe abortions.

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As an intervention, in 2013 the Ministry of Health in collaboration with Development partners, implementing partners, and stakeholders including; the Center for health human rights and development (CEHURD), IPAS Reproductive health Uganda (RHU), Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologist of Uganda (AOGU), Makerere University department of Psychiatry, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Makerere University School of Laws PACE, Health GAP, Marie Stopes Uganda, and the Coalition to Stop Maternal Mortality Due to Unsafe abortion (CSMMUA) started a consultative process for the development of Standards and Guidelines to address the mortality and morbidity as caused by unsafe abortions in the country.

These guidelines will be implemented in all health facilities nationwide and will also be used by health professionals as well as policy makers to take steps in the area of service delivery, advocacy and capacity building all aimed at reducing maternal mortality and morbidity caused by unsafe abortion in Uganda.

The launch of the Standards and guidelines which has marked the end of the two years multi-stakeholder consultative journey has been officiated by the Director of Health services at the ministry of Health Professor Anthony Mbonye on behalf of the State Minister of Health (in charge of primary health care) Honourable Sarah Opendi. In his statement during the launch, the Professor noted that Uganda like any other country pledged to meet the obligation under the Maputo plan of Action, MDG 5 on reduction of maternal mortality as well as other Global initiatives in order to ensure that lives are not lost as a result of unsafe abortions. “This has therefore remained a key Government concern,” he added.

The chief executive officer of CEHURD, Mr. Mulumba Moses said that the standards and guidelines document is a step towards stopping women from turning to backstreet alleys. Mr. Mulumba added that it is encouraging to hear that the ministry is ready to tackle the problem head on by developing a policy structure that aims to deal with an issue that has been ignored for far too long.

In Uganda, termination of pregnancy is restricted and only permitted to preserve the life, mental and physical health of pregnant mothers. There have been challenges due to limited understanding of the legal environment by health providers, policy makers and patients hence formulating these guidelines which will help in solving this issue.

Dr. Charles Kigundu, president of the Association of Gynecologist and Obstetricians of Uganda noted that as health workers dealing with maternal health issues still find a lot of women coming to them with complications such as infections and punctured uteri. The guidelines will help solve the situation greatly since many health professionals believe that abortion is totally legal yet the guidelines provide a better picture on how, when, and in what circumstances a safe abortion can be performed.

Utilizing social media to realize maternal health rights – the #selfie4her campaign

Social media has tremendously grown to sensitize people on their rights. A number of communities have engaged on different social media platforms including but not limited to Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram, and in one way or another there have been massive campaigns geared towards realization of rights.

With text, photos and info graphics, users of the different social media platforms have developed techniques to target not only the rights holders but also the duty bearers. This they do either by tagging the duty bearers themselves onto the different posts or ensuring that the initiated campaigns are popularized with clear explanations on how to get involved.

Once a campaign takes shape, there is community attraction and support for the same and this on many occasions leads to the much desired change. A number of publicly known successful campaigns have started in social media; take for example the case of a maid that mistreated a child in Uganda, whose video clip went viral on social media. What started as a simple post in social media turned out to be the centre of debate across the country for some good time. To-date, a mere mention of the “maid from hell” – like she was tagged – anyone can give you the whole chronology of the case.

Center for Health Human Rights and Development has for a long time focused efforts towards the realization, protection and preservation of human rights, key among which are maternal health related rights. In a bid to realize these, and given its experience in advocacy, CEHURD initiated a new media campaign, the #selfie4her campaign, to amplify citizen voices in the fight to end preventable maternal mortality. This campaign was launched in March 2015 during an east African media fellowship organized by CEHURD, that brought together journalists from the East African region to discuss sexual reproductive health rights issues.

This social media campaign set out to advocate for maternal health rights with reflection that it would in the end lead to an influence of the national budget to at least have 15% of it diverted to the health sector given that it greatly contributes to maternal deaths in the country.

The campaign has since gone viral with different people posting selfies for a woman’s cause. It is one of the simplest campaigns you could think of and it is very easy to follow;

  1. Take a picture of yourself and post it on any social media platform
  2. Or, take a picture of yourself and a mother
  3. Or post a picture of a health facility that could be bad or ideal

With either of the above, one posts a picture with a message aimed at improving lives of women.

CEHURD has not stopped at posting and inviting people to post but its methodology is quite distinctive. We have gone ahead to speak about the same on different TV and radio stations. This has created more attention to and recognition of the same. We have also linked the campaign to other key heath related issues like the planned exportation of health workers to Trinidad and Tobago and health budget advocacy. We hope that you can also join the campaign, and remember the #selfie4her is your hash tag.

By Nakibuuka Noor Musisi and Vivian Nakaliika