Uganda in Full Gear to Host 126th Inter Parliamentary Union Assembly: Maternal and Child Health Rights Top on the Agenda.
The year 2012 is yet another golden opportunity for Uganda to put on the table a crucial women issue; maternal health. Uganda is hosting the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) that will bring together members of parliament from over 156 countries. The IPU is an international organization of parliaments of UN member countries that was established in 1889. It is the hub for parliamentary dialogue worldwide. It works for peace and cooperation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy. The Union holds its assembly and related meeting twice a year, in Switzerland in October and in a member country in April. Uganda is blessed to host the April session this year.
With a woman speaker in the 9th parliament, The Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, a strong advocate for maternal health, Uganda’s advocacy efforts to include maternal health on the agenda of the 126th assembly during meeting held in Panama City in April 2011 yielded positive results.
The theme of the conference is “Parliaments and People: Bridging the Gap” to be held held between March 31 - April 5, 2012 in Kampala. As a woman I am excited that a topic such as; Access to health as a basic right: The role of parliaments in addressing key challenges to securing the health of women and children will be discussed. To be honest, what other health issues are more crucial and important than maternal health issues in Uganda today? This is clearly reflected in the glaring statistics of maternal mortality; 435 deaths per 100 000 thousand live births (meaning that 16 women die every day in Uganda while giving life; and child mortality also remains high. Uganda is ranked 19th country globally with the most child deaths (135 per 1000 live births in 2006).
Maternal mortality is largely due to preventable causes such as haemorrhage, sepsis, unsafe abortions, obstructed labour, hypertensive disorders and related causes. Parliament of Uganda with over one third (100+) women Members of Parliament recognised that grave effects of maternal mortality to the country and resolved to task government to strictly enforce maternal death audits and take action on established causes. Parliamentarians have attributed the poor health status of women and children to weak health systems which result in poor quality of services and inaccessibility of services; the high costs of accessing care, shortages of quality staff and drugs in the right places and at the right time and ineffective referral systems. Parliamentarians also acknowledge the negative impact of poor social determinants such as negative cultural beliefs and practices, education, water and sanitation on the health of women and children.
The Abuja Declaration is one of the key commitments by government that Parliament has pushed for government to implement that is allocating 15 percent of the total national budget to the health sector. Recently, Parliament of Uganda approved a $56 million government loan from the African Development Bank and the Nigeria Trust Fund intended to finance the improvement of health service delivery at Mulago hospital and for the construction of two referral health facilities in Kampala. Generally the non adherence of several countries to legally binding international treaties is a matter that has deprived people of their right to good health as a basic human right.
Parliament approved a $130 million government loan from the World Bank intended for financing the Health Systems Strengthening Project in 2010. The women parliamentarians stood to their ground and demanded that part of this loan be spent on improving maternal health conditions or else the loan is not approved. This condition was honoured and this saw $30 million specifically targeted to the improvement of access to and quality of maternal health, newborn care and family planning services. Another component of the loan, amounting to $85 million, was to improve infrastructure of existing health facilities, particularly providing minimum quality standards of healthcare services, especially maternal and child care. A big achievement!!!
Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Rt Hon. Rebecca Kadaga (host of the 126th IPU Assembly), is a zealous advocate of maternal health. On February 24, 2012, she presided over a function at which the Government of Uganda signed a letter of intent with the US Government, which pledged to provide $400 million towards the improvement of health services, particularly the prevention of maternal mortality.
Hon Sylvia Ssinabulya once moved a motion in parliament and urged government to show more commitment to improving maternal health by taking steps to make maternal health a priority at all levels, through establishing a maternal mortality control programme, making maternal deaths a notifiable condition by law and ensuring availability of transfusion blood by increasing the number of blood banks.
We look forward to this meeting and it gives Uganda women more confidence and faith that that the recommendations and resolutions made in the IPU Assembly will be implemented and the mothers, daughters, children, families and communities of this nation will enjoy their reproductive and health rights and lives without any worry.