Saving lives of mothers and children must remain at the top of Uganda’s development agenda, the First Lady and Minister for Karamoja Affairs Janet Kataaha Museveni has said.
She said that child marriages and early motherhood which increase the risk of dying in child birth and also jeopardizes the wellbeing of surviving mothers and children must be stopped.
The First Lady was speaking at the launch of a four-year Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA)- UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) project on Tuesday at Serena Hotel Kampala.
The over 2.7 billion shillings project funded by the Republic of South Korea and implemented by UNICEF aims at strengthening maternal, newborn and child health services in Karamoja and Acholi sub regions.
It targets coverage of over 100,000 pregnant mothers with labour complications and 100,000 children under five years including newborns.
It will be implemented in the seven Districts of Karamoja (Abim, Amudat, Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto, Napak and Nakapiripirit) and 3 Districts of Acholi (Agago, Kitgum and Pader).
Hon. Janet Museveni noted that the maternal and child mortality rates in Karamoja are higher than the national average.
This, she attributed to the delay in making timely decisions to go to the health facility for safe delivery, delay in reaching the health facilities and delay at receiving care at the health facility.
She observed that addressing issues of maternal and child health is a shared responsibility of Ministry of Health and Local Governments plus other stakeholders.
She appealed to Local Government leaders to effectively play their roles of mobilizing the communities to work and ensure a sustainable mechanism for mothers to have an income at household level so that they are empowered to make timely decisions to access health facilities.
She also pointed out the need for serious food production in every season so that families in Karamoja can feed themselves and break the culture of food aid and also improve on the nutrition of the families.
She noted that despite the challenges, over the last few years Government’s work and also the contribution of development partners such as UNICEF has made several achievements in Karamoja which include increase in institutional deliveries from 18% in 2012 to 45% in 2015, increase to mothers’ access to post natal care in health units, and increased access to EMTCT services at health facilities.
A comprehensive Nutrition Resilience Strategy for Karamoja has been drafted to address the high prevalence of acute malnutrition in the region.
The Minister for Health Dr Elioda Tumwesigye said his Ministry together with development partners has embarked on a plan to scale up maternal and child health programmes in Uganda.
The programme code named “Reproductive Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (RMNCH) Sharpened Plan for Uganda” is to accelerate progress towards achieving Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 on improving child and maternal mortality rates.
In Karamoja, some of the initiatives to bolster maternal and child health programmes include the ‘Birth Cushion’ and solar light suitcases which have increased institutional deliveries from 9%nto 46% in the past one and half years.
Other include the solar powered mobile station for community health education, the voucher scheme which facilitates transportation of pregnant women with complications during labour and the EMTCT campaign championed by the First Lady for the prevention of the transfer of HIV from the mother to the baby in the womb of an HIV positive pregnant woman and starting the sick on ARVs.
In his remarks, the Korean Amassador to Uganda H.E PARK Jongdae reiterated his government’s commitment towards improving global health, which he said started way back in 2007 with the launch of the air-ticket solidarity levy entitled “Global Poverty Eradication Contribution”.
From the collections, Uganda has benefitted with a total of over 17 million US dollars out of which over 8 million US dollars was allocated to UNICEF to implement the Korean Innovative Maternal and Child Health Inniative (KIMCHI) in Uganda.
The UNICEF representative in Uganda Aida Girma said by the end of the 4 year partnership, a number of results will be achieved.
These include increased availability and readiness of essential maternal, newborn and child health services, more skilled health workers, health facilities and village health teams with enhanced capacity to deliver the minimum packages in villages.
The function was attended the Minister of State for Karamoja Affairs Barbara Nekesa Oundo, District Chairpersons, Resident District commissioners and district health officers from the Karamoja and among others.