KAMPALA, Uganda- According to the Kampala-based Women’s Pro-Bono Initiative, at least 11 pregnant women have died because of problems accessing maternal healthcare. The fast spread of the Coronavirus forced into effect Uganda’s lockdown which included a nationwide travel ban imposed with one hour’s notice, leaving no opportunity to plan. Local authorities report that they had no time to make proper provision for people with chronic illnesses, or those who needed emergency healthcare.
“This element was not addressed at the initial stage of this lockdown due to the pandemic,” said Dr. Kaggwa Mugagga, HIV advisor at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Uganda. “We had to sit back and look at what was the impact of the lockdown on various programmes.”
A story is told of 36-year-old Joan Sylivia Ddumba who, on Wednesday 20th May 2020, passed on while on the way to hospital to give birth. Despite efforts to arrange both clearance and transport in the shortest time possible, from a nearby Health clinic to Kibuli Hospital, Ms Ddumba’s heavy bleeding and the discouraging report by the clinic attendants rendered all parties powerless. The mother of three unfortunately did not make it in time to save her life, and her body was transferred to Mulago Hospital mortuary. Her husband who was in Butambala with no means to travel as a result of the lockdown, and her brother, Tony Ddumba, blames both the lockdown and the lack of easy access of health services for the death of their beloved.
UGANET strongly urges the government to help in ensuring that the lives of pregnant women during this lockdown are put as a priority, and that their health care should come first. Efforts should also be made to equip the Health Centers in villages with the necessary resources and personnel so as to make health services more accessible and also eliminate time spent in securing transport to travel to further hospitals. Local governments and leaders of smaller communities should be on high alert to look out for patients and vulnerable groups, and ensure that health services are provided as soon as possible.