WINSENGA UPDATE/BULLETIN 29.0 – Govt plans to pay village health teams

Excerpts from The Observer website.

The ministry of Health plans to turn the country’s Village Health Teams (VHTs) into salary earners.

According to the minister of state for Primary Health Care, Sarah Achieng Opendi, the teams currently working as volunteers are critical in health service delivery.

Opendi made the revelation during the third International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP), which ended in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, last week.

Opendi said the Ugandan delegation had learnt a lot about how Ethiopia managed to use their Health Extension Workers (HEWs) – the equivalent of VHTs in Uganda – to increase use of contraceptives and improve health indicators in the countryside.

Ethiopia’s ministry of Health selects two members of a village, who are trained for a year before they are sent back into the community. The skills obtained from the training are used to treat small ailments as well as distribute contraceptives to women. They are also trained to administer injectable contraceptives such as Depo Provera – the most sought-after contraceptive.

The Ethiopian health extension workers are trained to identify complicated health issues and refer them to health centres. They also help identify expectant mothers in the village, who they visit at home and talk about the importance of antenatal care and giving birth with skilled attendance.

Because they are paid, the HEWs are motivated in their job. Being community members makes it easier for them to win the trust of the targeted women.

“We are implementing movements of communities through participatory action meetings. We are trying to mobilise three million women voluntary leaders to bring social transformation in Ethiopia. We want to reduce unmet need and reach an additional 6.7 million women who want to avoid unintended pregnancies,” said Dr Ketesebirhan Admasu, Ethiopia’s Health minister.

There has been an annual two per cent increment in contraceptive outreach and Dr Admasu says this is the highest in any country in the world. Ethiopia’s HEWs have helped reduce under-five mortality rate, improved maternal health and helped double the prevalence of contraceptives.

Opendi hopes that given the lessons from Ethiopia, Uganda’s own VHTs will help increase contraceptive prevalence which stands at 31 per cent and help reduce the country’s unmet need for family planning.



WINSENGA UPDATE/BULLETIN 28.0 – Ugandan government steps up fight against maternal mortality

Excerpts from

The government in Uganda has vowed to increase its investment in essential treatments designed to reduce maternal and infant mortality.

It unveiled plans for a new initiative in the capital Kampala yesterday (November 26th) and confirmed it would be targeting the areas that are worst affected by pregnancy-related fatalities.

The deaths of an estimated 120,000 infants and 6,100 mothers are expected to be prevented in the next four years if the plans are a success, reports the New Vision.

Director general of the country’s Ministry for Health Dr Jane Ruth Aceng explained that greater links needed to be established between district departments, central government and the individuals affected by maternal health issues.

She said: “We shall target accountability. All districts will have routine health management teams and score cuts. All the district maternal, neonatal and child health initiatives have a mandate to increase accountability.”

WINSENGA UPDATE/BULLETIN 27.0 – Uganda: You Can Reduce Chances of Baby Coming Prematurely

Excerpts from AllAfrica website.

Uganda is one of the countries struggling with a high number of premature babies, a recent report released on global premature deliveries has shown.

Out of at least 1.5 million Ugandan babies born annually, more than 200,000 (14 per cent) are premature or born before the 37-week gestation. This, according to the report, ‘Born too soon: the global action report on preterm birth’, ranks Uganda 13th out of 184 high-burden countries.

The report was compiled by World Health Organization (WHO), Save the Children, March of Dimes and The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

At a press conference at the Health ministry last week, assistant commissioner nursing, Sr Enid Mwebaza, said southeastern Uganda is leading in premature births mainly because of malnutrition and malaria. Uganda also ranks 11th in the number of deaths due to complications from pre-term birth.

Statistics from the ministry of Health show that 38 per cent of the roughly 40,000 deaths occurring in the babies’ first 28 days are due to premature births. “Many of the preterm babies who survive face a lifetime of disability.

A premature baby is likely to develop breathing problems, poor formation of the heart, brain and immune system function,” state minister for health in charge of general duties Dr Elioda Tumwesigye said at the briefing.


WINSENGA UPDATE/BULLETIN 26.0 – Uganda: No More ‘Labour Suites’ in Banana Plantation

Excerpts from AllAfrica website.

A worker at PACE, a social marketing franchise involved in health projects, says Ugandans in rural areas still give birth in banana plantations!

And, according to David Mutale, a project co-coordinator of Holistic Care for Mothers, a project aimed at reducing maternal mortality, preparations for giving birth, for those mothers intending to give birth in a banana plantation, include identification and cutting down of the banana leaf the mother will lie on during delivery, washing the banana leaf, followed by arranging the banana leaf in the spot the mother intends to deliver from.

But why are mothers still delivering babies in banana plantations? Why aren’t they delivering from health centres?

Well, because if an expectant mother does not have items such as sterile gloves, a plastic sheet and cotton wool, health workers will not help her deliver as contact with her blood puts the health worker at risk of various infections.

……… Catherine Ntabadde, the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) publicist, says having realised that the poor state of health facilities and lack of items like gloves were deterring women in northern Uganda from delivering from health facilities, UCRS implemented the Mama Bag Appeal programme in northern Uganda involving the giving out of Mama kits containing sterile gloves, cotton wool, a plastic sheet and baby clothes to expectant mothers.


WINSENGA UPDATE/BULLETIN 25.0 – SA maternal mortality rate increases

Excerpts from health24 website

The WHO defines maternal death as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy”.

According to the report, South Africa is not among those countries “on track” to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing its maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015.

It also shows the country’s maternal mortality rate is higher than several of its neighbours, including Botswana (160 per 100 000) and Madagascar (240 per 100 000), but a good deal lower than Zimbabwe (570 per 100 000) and Lesotho (620 per 100 000).

The report finds that the failure to make more rapid progress in reducing maternal mortality rates in the 75 countries it measures “is the most serious wound on the body of global health”.

It says many reasons are offered as mitigation for this.

“But the underlying cause of failure is that development partners have simply not been sufficiently interested in strengthening the systems of health care that women need during pregnancy and childbirth.”


WINSENGA UPDATE/BULLETIN 24.0 – Danger in Labour – Uganda’s Maternal Health Crisis

Excerpts from AllAfrica website.

From drug shortages to insufficient staff to having to pay for ‘free’ treatment, pregnant women face countless challenges. And that’s presuming they can even reach a health centre.

From her small garden in the village of Mirindi, located in the Kabale District of south-western Uganda, Precious Tumuhaise, a 27-year-old woman and mother of four, rests her weight against her efuka, a traditional hand-hoe, and glances over her shoulder at her one-year old daughter tied to her back with colourful cloth.

“Being pregnant cannot stop you,” Precious explains, as she pauses from preparing the ground to plant sweet potatoes, the staple food crop that feeds her family year round.

“You dig, you deliver at home, and days later you go back to the garden with the baby on your back,” she says with a laugh. But Precious knows all too well that giving birth in her village, a two-hour walk from the Kabale Regional Hospital, is no laughing matter.

Uganda has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that 435 women per 100,000 live births in Uganda die from preventable pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications.