Maternal Health Task Force

MHTF Blog

Making Real Change for Maternal Health Through Advocacy in Uganda

By: Robina Biteyi, National Coordinator, White Ribbon Alliance Uganda

In Uganda we are witnessing a recent increase in maternal deaths . We once reported that 16 women die every day in our country, but that number has now increased to 17. White Ribbon Alliance is tackling this trend by pushing the government to invest adequately in Emergency Live Saving Care.

Ugandan citizens are stepping up and demanding that action should be taken. Together, we pushed the government to make a commitment to the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women and Children to save maternal and child lives. That commitment was made, and the real work has begun in making sure the Ugandan government follows through with their commitment.

We know our women and their babies are dying due to lack of emergency obstetric and newborn care (EmONC). This is why we pushed the government to commit to provide this care, and they did. In 2011, the Government of Uganda stated that all health centres would provide basic emergency obstetric and newborn care (BEmONC) and 50% would provide comprehensive obstetric and newborn care (CEmONC).

As White Ribbon Alliance, we campaign for this promise to be delivered. We carried out assessments and collected evidence on the provision of care, and we brought together many different leaders in our society for us to collectively decide what the focus needed to be of our campaign and how we would achieve our goals.

Our assessments in 43 health centres across three very diverse districts have shown us that not one of the three districts is currently meeting the minimum requirement for BEmONC nor CEmONC. We collected the stories of the challenges people were facing to try to access the care they needed and made a film to show our policy makers.

The assessments carried out to assess maternal health service delivery have brought both anticipated and unexpected successes. As expected, they allowed us to bring real evidence into discussions and campaigns. Also, as we engaged with health workers, district officials and community leaders to complete the assessment, it was reported that this process broke down some of the communication barriers that existed before the assessment. The communication facilitated by the assessment process has led to local actions now being taken to make improvements.

As we moved through the districts, people voiced their experiences and we recorded them and connected with local media to document what was happening. We petitioned the district leadership based on the evidence collected and they addressed the petitions in their meetings. Since this engagement with the district leaders, we have already seen real increase in budget allocation for these essential services. Without our evidence and campaigning, the facts would not be known.

We are also bridging the gaps between national administration and district councils. The provision of equipment and supplies are critical components of EmONC. To address bottlenecks in these supply chains, we are in discussions with the National Medical Stores and district teams. In addition to addressing the supply chain, we are amplifying the district demands for an increased budget commitment at the national level. We are doing this by pushing through our national networks and media so that emergency care gets the focus it needs in the national budget priorities.

We know that if we work together to link citizens’ demands with national leaders, we can save mothers and babies lives. Nobody wants to lose a mother, and no couple wants to lose their baby. We know what works and we know with the right investment in emergency care, we can make the same progress that is happening in other countries around the world. We are calling on all partners in Uganda and beyond to join us in advocating for this government commitment. Please track our progress and get in touch with us through our blog page and Facebook. Please join us to #ACTNOWTOSAVEMOTHERS.

If you would like to share your in-country story with us, please email Natalie Ramm or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

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