KAMPALA – The number of mothers dying during deliveries within hospitals is on the rise, according to a report released by the Ministry of Health.
Figures from the Annual Health Sector Performance review show that a total of 496 mothers died during childbirth in 2019/2020 compared to 424 the previous year, recording a 7% increase in the recorded deaths.
Kawempe National Referral Hospital recorded the highest number of deaths at 116 recorded cases, followed by Hoima hospital with 46 and Masaka with 38. Bunyoro, Kampapa and Bugisu registered the highest numbers of death.
Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the director general at the health ministry attributed the high deaths to late referrals which often threaten the lives of the mother.
“Many of these deaths take place at national referral hospitals because the mothers are often referred late. Many health center IVs hold onto the mothers for long as their condition worsens even when they know they cannot handle it,” said Mwebesa.
The prevalence of institutional maternal mortality now stands at 99 deaths per 100,000 women who die during delivery at a health center. About 64% of the deaths that were recorded were among females aged 24 and above. The rest of the deaths were recorded among females aged 24 and below with 10% of the deaths occurring among girls aged between 10 and 19 years.
According to the health ministry, the biggest cause of death among women during and after death is hemorrhage responsible for 42% of all deaths reviewed. In majority of the reviewed deaths, bleeding begun after delivery of the child. Other causes that led to death of mothers were pre-eclampsia and malaria.
Reproductive health experts say that 80 percent of the maternal deaths are avoidable but poor adherence to health antenatal visits by mothers leave both the baby and the mother at risk.
Dr. Richard Mugahi, the assistant commissioner in charge of reproduction and child health at the health ministry says that because mothers do not go for antenatal, even conditions that they can be saved from end up claiming their lives.
“If mothers attend antenatal, some of the deaths caused by high blood pressure could be avoided when they are detected early. But often many mothers do not go for antenatal only to show up at a health facility in critical condition when doctors cannot even tell what the matter is. There is little time to carry out extensive investigations,” he said.
The report further shows that health facilities are not carrying out reviews to ascertain the cause of the death of the mothers. Last year, 35 percent of the deaths that occurred were not reviewed.
Dr. Charles Olaro, the director of curative services at the ministry of health says hospitals need to carry out death reviews to identify the reason why mothers are dying.
“There has been some improvement in carrying out death reviews but certainly there is room for more work to be done. If reviews are not carried out, health workers cannot know whether a mother’s death could have been avoided or not,” said Dr. Olaro.