Mothers at risk in Uganda’s rotting healthcare system

Nile Post News

Nile Post News

, Health, News

Story by Tabitha Agaba & Innocent Nabaasa

Child birth is supposed to be a joyous occasion however sometimes it ends in tragedy.

At 37 weeks, Provia Agaba’s water broke and she decided to check in one of the government hospitals in her Kyanja neighbourhood however she wasn’t helped as the doctors looked on and told her to wait for her labour pains.

Sylvia Ntabazi checked into one of the top hospitals in the city for her delivery however no sooner had she left the theatre than she started experiencing chest pain. Doctors dismissed her concern and advised her to take honey as a remedy for her pain. On second thought, however, Sylvia opted to check into another hospital where she was diagnosed with acute pneumonia.

Sylvia and Provia represent a number of mothers who have experienced complications related to child birth and been at the receiving end of little to no useful medical care.

According to Dr. Kinene a gynecologist at Kampala Hospital, there are many postnatal issues that can be life threatening.

Dr. Kinene advises pregnant mothers to stick to the same hospital throughout their pregnancy and delivery.

He says this helps to avoid complications during child birth.

Dr. Kinene further advises medical practitioners to keep the communication channels open and straightforward with their patients to avert any misunderstandings but also provide comfort to the patients.

According to the 2011 statistics by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics the maternal mortality rates stands at 366 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Some of the prominent mothers who have died due to postnatal complications

  • Iganga Woman Member of Parliament (MP) Kaudha Grace Hailat Magumba was 30 years old when she passed on at Mulago National Referral Hospital (Kawempe extension) after succumbing to severe pre-eclampsia.
  • Remie Wamala   was 36 years old when she died during childbirth after severe bleeding during child birth. She was the Coordinator of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Children Affairs
  • Nuliat Nambazira died two weeks after giving birth due to excessive bleeding. She died at Kampala International Hospital. At time of her demise she was the program officer of communications at the Eastern African sub-regional Support Initiative.(EAASI)

Common causes of postnatal deaths include;

o          Postpartum hemorrhage which can present as excessive bleeding which can be caused by placenta tissues left in the womb, failure of the uterus to contract after birth, bleeding from the birth canal after delivery.

o          Localized infection or disseminated infection (sepsis) some of these infections that can be caused by poor hygiene around the mother because the birth canal is an open wound after child birth and requires to be handled with the utmost hygiene to prevent infections in addition to prescribed antibiotics, water breaking before child birth puts the mother at the risk of an infection.


o          Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (pre-eclampsia, eclampsia) this is a condition during pregnancy where there is a sudden rise in blood pressure and swelling, mostly in the face, hands, and feet.


o          Obstructed labor


o          Previous abortions


o          Anaemia.


A mother should look out for these symptoms and signs and should immediately visit the nearest health centre;

  • vaginal bleeding has increased
  • fast or difficult breathing
  • fever and too weak to get out of bed
  • severe headaches with blurred vision
  • calf pain, redness or swelling; shortness of breath or chest pain.
  • swollen, red or tender breasts or nipples
  • problems urinating, or leaking
  • increased pain or infection in the perineum
  • infection in the area of the wound (redness, swelling, pain, or pus in wound site)
  • smelly vaginal discharge
  • severe depression or suicidal behavior (ideas, plan or attempt
  • 396