KAMPALA – Speaker of Parliament Anita Among has revealed that since their (Parliamentarians) election to office, they have made it clear that one of the issues that will be top of their agenda is addressing the matters that affect women and the girl child.
Represented by Bardege-Layibi MP, Ojara Martin Mapenduzi, Among wad on Thursday evening officiated at the midwives dialogue with parliamentarians and awards to best performing midwives in Uganda, 2022 hosted by the Ambassador of Sweden in Uganda, H.E Maria Hákansson at her residence in Kololo. At the event, 15 magnificent midwives were awarded for their significant contribution to health.
Madam Speaker said that maternal health and the fate of midwives are matters close to their hearts as the leadership of the Parliament.
“Every day we are reminded about the realities that face the sector, the statistics that define our maternal mortality rate and the challenges that our midwives face in their day-to-day work.”
“I have on many occasions asked the members of Parliament to prioritize these issues as they carry out their roles of appropriation and oversight, they know now more than ever that these issues need urgent intervention,” she said.
She pledged House’s commitment in budget allocations and interventions.
Among said that despite competing priorities and hardships brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic that have altered the country’s economic projections, “we must do our best to address the issues that keep our infant mortality high.”
She says that Uganda having women top leaders like herself, Vice President, Prime Minister and even all the three Ministers in the Health docket, it’s a big opportunity for them to push the agenda of the women.
She congratulated the winners of the day for standing out in extraordinary ways, for going beyond the call of duty to make maternity wards safe.
H.E Maria Hákansson, the event intended at celebrating all the talented and dedicated midwives in Uganda, as a pre-event to the International Day of the Midwife next week 5 May.
“This evening we will recognize the tremendous efforts made by thousands of midwives every day across Uganda – often under challenging circumstances.”
According to her, an average midwife in Uganda conducts more than twice as many deliveries per day than what is being recommended by World Health Organisation – WHO.
“Midwives play a key role in maternal and newborn health, and their presence often make the difference between life and death for newborn babies and their mothers. For this, they deserve our respect and recognition!”
“Midwifery is crucial in ensuring sexual, reproductive, health and rights (SRHR) as well as maternal and new bor health care. Investment in midwives is not only an investment to save lives of mothers and newborn children. The role of the midwife goes beyond that. It lays the ground for individuals and families to plan their lives and enables them to make informed choices. Midwives support and promote healthy families, and empower women and couples to choose whether, when and how often to have children,” said the Ambassador.
H.E Hákansson says midwives are also central to empowerment, particularly for women’s empowerment.
“We all know that an empowered woman contributes greatly to economic prosperity and sustainable growth and development of the nation. Through Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy, the Swedish government aims to ensure that women and men have the same power to shape society and their own lives.”
She reminded the public of midwives’ commitment during the covid 19.
“We all know the negative consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic, where the lockdowns and closure of schools have resulted in an increasing number of wanted pregnancies, teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortions and limitations in access to SRHR services and information, especially for young people and key populations. Which once again highlights the important role midwives play when it comes to sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
She said, “With this price, it is our hope that all awarded midwives will continue to find inspiration and motivation to carry out the very important work that they do and be role models for other midwifes and students in their districts, regions and in Uganda as a whole. I would like to thank the Ministry of Health and UNFPA for championing the cause of midwives for all.”
The Ambassador also revealed that they will continue their extensive support to SRHR and maternal and child health in the years to come.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative, Dr. Mary Otieno commended the Embassy of Sweden and the Swedish Midwives Association, who since 2015 have been convening such important events to recognize Uganda’s midwives for their dedication and commitment
She also commended the Government of Uganda for providing leadership in efforts to improve midwifery services in Uganda, saying that seven out of ten women in Uganda, now deliver with assistance from a skilled birth attendant.
Dr. Otieno said that UNFPA stands in solidarity with midwives in recognition of the life-saving work they do every day, often in difficult conditions.
“Evidence shows in such circumstances; the midwives are able to provide 87% of the care needed,” she said.
“Midwives, when properly trained and supported, offer one of the most cost-effective and culturally-sensitive paths to achieving universal health care,” she added.
She revealed that UNFPA has consistently supported the Government of Uganda to implement several interventions aimed at improving the quality of midwifery services.
Dr. Otieno said that since 2010, UNFPA has worked with the ministries of Health and Education to improve midwifery standards in the country.
“For example, a total of over 600 midwives have been trained under a bonding scheme and have been deployed in health facilities across the country to address the midwifery deficit, especially in hard to reach areas like the Karamoja region.”
Because of these interventions, she said there has been a remarkable improvement in some of the maternal health indicators.
“For example, skilled birth attendance in the hard-to-reach Karamoja region increased from 30% in 2011 to 73% in 2016 according to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey. This means that a woman is less likely to die during childbirth.”
According to her, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of investing in midwives as an essential part of the primary health care system.
Tororo Woman MP, Sarah Opendi who is also the chairperson of the Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association also lauded the Swedish Embassy for thE initiative of recognizing the midwives that have excelled while on duty.
She also commended the ministry of education for phasing out the comprehensive nurses who were doing the work of the midwives.
“As government constructs health center iiis, it must make sure that the midwives are trained but also we hope that the ministry of health will be able to review the structure of the health facilities. Since we have a population increase and therefore more mothers delivering in the health facilities, especially in the lower health facilities, we have to look into the numbers of the midwives that are working in every health facility.”
She, however, decried the shortage of midwives in health facilities, saying that most of them overwork, for about 24 hours a day.
She also said that much as midwives are committed to serving their nation, they are faced with a lot of challenges which government must address as soon as possible.
“If you go to some of these health facilities, you will find that there is lack of delivery beds, no power, infrastructure and most importantly lack of necessary supplies for them to use. Sometimes they even lack the gloves.”
“Much as we talk about corruption that maybe they (midwives) are asking for some money, there are some genuine ones. They want to help mothers but they lack the necessary supplies,” said Opendi, who happened to be State Minister of Health for General Duties.
Commenting on President’s proposal to increase on scientists’ salaries, Opendi says it’s not enough to increase the salaries when other necessary equipment are lacking.
“If you give me a better salary when I don’t have supplies to use, of what use is it to the patient?” she asked.
Maternal mortality ratio in Uganda remains high at 336 deaths per 100,000 live births according to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey of 2016. In spite of the increase in skilled birth attendance to the current 74% (from 57% in 2011), and a decrease in maternal mortality (from 348 deaths per 100,000) births over the decade, the country’s MMR is still much higher than the target for 2030 set by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3. Worse still, approximately 27 out of 1,000 births result in the death of a newborn child across the country. These poor maternal and perinatal outcomes, are due to the challenges of adequately responding to the gaps in care.
With the right values, the right education, the right leadership, enabling policy and practice environment, adequate equipment and supplies, motivation, sufficient support and recognition, midwives are capable of bringing the high maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality to low levels. Many public health initiatives geared towards implementing Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services require their input, yet their potential and actual contribution is often overlooked, in both policy development and local implementation as well as in terms of resourcing. However, changing times demand new solutions. There is need for a strong recognition and respect for the central contribution of midwives in the delivery of quality SRHR services. A more strategic approach is needed to involving them in individual and population-based public health initiatives and policy decisions as part of their core responsibilities and as public health specialists.