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Minister Roots for Compulsory Antenatal Care Policy :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Minister Roots for Compulsory Antenatal Care Policy

The World Health Organisation recommends that pregnant women should have their first contact with skilled medical personnel in the first 12 weeks gestation, with subsequent contacts taking place at 20, 26, 30, 34, 36, 38 and 40 weeks gestation.
Minister Sarah Achieng Opendi speaking during the function.

Audio 3

State Minister for Health Sarah Opendi is pushing for a policy that will require all expectant mothers to visit health facilities at least 8 times during the pregnancy cycle. She says that the move is to reduce the risk of stillbirths and pregnancy complications and give women a positive pregnancy experience.

Opendi made the remarks during the closure of the Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL) project that was started by Baylor Uganda in 2012 to tackle maternal deaths. The event was held at Mountains of the Moon hotel in Fort Portal municipality on Friday.

She noted that many pregnant women are still avoiding health centres instead seeking assistance from pastors and traditional healers, a practice which puts their lives at risk.

As a result, Uganda is struggling to contain the high maternal and infant mortality rates. At 336 deaths per 100,000 live births, Uganda's maternal mortality rate is still among the highest in the world. However, the minister is optimistic that the narrative can be reversed with increased access to, and use of, higher-quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth.

 

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The World Health Organisation recommends that pregnant women should have their first contact with skilled medical personnel in the first 12 weeks' gestation, with subsequent contacts taking place at 20, 26, 30, 34, 36, 38 and 40 weeks' gestation.

But recent data by UNICEF indicates that while 86 per cent of pregnant women access antenatal care with a skilled health personnel at least once, only three in five receive at least four antenatal visits. In regions with the highest rates of maternal mortality, such as sub-Saharan Africa even fewer women received at least four antenatal visits during their pregnancy cycle.

Opendi asked district leaders to take punitive measures against pastors and traditional healers that claim to hold powers that enable expectant mothers to deliver from the comfort of their homes. She said the vice is growing and should be tamed immediately.

She also added that government is in process of putting in place technology that will help mothers who are unable to conceive, get children without a hustle.

 

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According to its end of Project report, there were 534 maternal deaths annually at the start of the project in 13 districts of Rwenzori region.  However, the number has since reduced to 300 at the time of its closure. The districts include Kabarole, Kamwenge, Kagadi, Kibaale, Kakumiro, Gulu, Lira, Dokolo, among others.

Bunyangabu district health officer Dr Richard Obet, and one of those who carried out the study said the number of births from health centres in Rwenzori also increased during the lifespan of the project.

  

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He explained that results were due to interventions that included Village Health Teams that mobilized and educated women about safe motherhood and how to prepare for the next childbirth and providing affordable transport by subsidizing transportation through their voucher program.

"Additionally, the partnership equipped lower-level facilities to manage complications of pregnancy and childbirth, many women were able to access care closer to home," Dr Obet said.

The Baylor Uganda Executive Director, Addy Kekiitinwa said the project has achieved tangible results and urged the government to take on from where they have stopped.

Baylor Uganda, in conjunction with other partner organizations like Infectious Disease Institute (IDI) Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Government, also donated 24 motorcycles to ease movement of Village Health Teams.

 Kamwenge received 8 motorcycles, Kyenjojo 8, Bunyangabu 4 and Kabarole 4.