Today, Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate World Population Day under the theme “Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations.”
Out of 7.5 billion people in the world, 34,634,650 million are Ugandans according to the Uganda National Population and Housing Census 2014. The country’s average annual population growth rate of 3% is attributed to the high fertility rate caused by inadequate access to safe and voluntary family planning for the people.
The high fertility rate in Uganda is thus evident of inadequate availability of a range of contraceptive methods, married with insufficient support from partners or communities, making it difficult for women to attain methods appropriate to their needs. A study by Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) on the status of the 13 UN Lifesaving Commodities in Uganda (2015-2016) indicated that while some of the reproductive health commodities (female condom, contraceptive implants such as Implanon Jadelle and the emergency contraceptive pills) were most available, others such as the female condom and the long term contraceptives were poorly available in less than 50% of the health facilities.
The high fertility rates in the country place emphasis on the need to increase provision and access to family planning commodities by scaling up efforts on provider training and consumer awareness about the commodities. This is in tandem with exerting price controls in the private sector to ensure family planning commodities are available, accessible, acceptable and are of good quality to all potential users.
Government should therefore invest in making family planning commodities and services readily available for those in need through developing programs that provide counselling, information and a wide range of contraceptive methods to yield economic growth and other gains that can boost sustainable development.
Today information about the global community is continuously becoming more available yet the space to access information supposedly closer to us and about issues that affect us more directly becomes narrower and narrower. But just to what extent is one entitled to know about activities that go on in their backyard that significantly impact their livelihood when they have no proprietary rights in said activities. Human lives and health are significantly affected by the nature of their environment and the activities that are carried out in their environments and the government has through the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) set up measures to ensure that the environment is not affected by any activities including by requiring impact assessments before such activities are carried out.
Until proper and well-coordinated systems are in place, safe delivery is likely to remain a dream in Uganda. When reports are made about child theft within health care systems, one can think they are just stories but the reality is true. Such happen. Many women have lost their new born babies in the health facilities; the cause of which is yet to be determined.
Just before the High court makes its pronunciation in a case instituted by CEHURD (CEHURD and others V. Executive Director of Mulago National Referral Hospital) on allegations of child theft, another case has again been reported of a lost child within the same health facility, and the only National referral Hospital, under similar circumstances.
Many questions remain unanswered when we see such happen in the country. Could this be the reason behind Uganda’s failure to achieve MDG 4 and 5? Why do children get lost in the facilities? Is it the system failure or it’s the problem of individual health workers that opt for money out of these new born babies? Will the maternal death rates be reduced at this rate of child theft? Are mothers safer to deliver in health facilities or within hands of traditional birth attendants? Such and many more remain unanswered.
It is indeed disturbing to see a mother who goes through the nine months of pregnancy suffer due to system failure.This was the case for Ms. Anyongire Lovis and Mr. Fred Sanyu. It is alleged that the couple was delivered of a beautiful brown fat bouncing baby girl on the night of 2nd January 2014. After a few minutes, the health workers took the baby away noting that she was ‘tired’. The demand to receive their child has since been in vain. They were only given a body of a dark skinned borny baby girl the following day and on refusal of that, another body that fits their description (of a brown fat baby girl) was given to them.
CEHURD has intervened in the matter, we have interviewed the family and hope to meet the administration of Mulago Hospital for further particulars as we collect evidence to institute a health and human rights related case on behalf of the family.
As we progress to advocate for safe motherhood and delivery, many factors have remained constant that ought to lead the country down. Its unfortunate that health facilities that are meant to be safe places for delivery are turning into a market place for new born babies. Such factors coupled with medicine stock outs, poor remuneration of health workers hinder and will continue to hinder safe delivery within the health care system unless addressed.
Today the 12th of November 2014, CEHURD together with Michael Mubangizi and Jennifer Musimenta appeared before her Lordship, Justice Lydia Mugambe to address her on the case against Mulago National referral hospital and Attorney General (Civil suit No. 212 of 2014)