How the death of two Ugandan mothers is helping entrench the right to health care


Every day, an average of 16 women in Uganda die avoidable deaths during childbirth. And while neighboring Rwanda has decreased similar incidents, Uganda continues to struggle even as it promises free health services to citizens. Resources, salaries and staff training are in short supply, and even without user fees for health services patients are expected to pay out-of-pocket for some services--and are denied or delayed when they can't. It's a recipe that has led to many of the preventable deaths--deaths of infants and mothers that could have been avoided with prompt maternal care. The tragic deaths of two expectant mothers, Sylvia Nalubowa and Jennifer Anguko, are spurring calls for the Ugandan government to take responsibility--and to change the system to ensure meaningful rights to health care for all.

Respecting women's rights as well as the country's constitution and international agreements, the Centre for health, Human Rights and Development argues, includes the right to necessary maternal care.

Click through to follow the progress of this case through Ugandan courts. - When Sylvia Nalubowa went into labour in Uganda’s Mityana district in August 2009, she was taken to a local health centre where she expected to have a normal birth, supervised by a midwife.

After she had delivered her first baby the midwife realised there was a twin on the way. The midwife recommended that Nalubowa be taken to the district hospital where a doctor could handle the second delivery.

But when she arrived at the Mityana District Hospital in Central Uganda, the nurses asked for her maternity kit. This is commonly known as a “mama kit” and contains a plastic sheet, razor blades, cotton wool or gauze pad, soap, gloves, cord ties, and a child health card. All mothers delivering babies in Ugandan hospitals and clinics are expected to bring their own “mama kits” when they go into labour.

But Nalubowa had used her “mama kit” at the first health facility when delivering her first child. The nurses would hear none of her excuses and demanded money to purchase the kit before they could attend to her.

Read more here.