Promoting safe motherhood in Uganda
Antoinette Nyiraneza hands in a sheet of paper to Joan Omitong, the Primary Health Care Officer at Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) Uganda programme. The sheet of paper details Angelica’s home and community interactions with expectant mothers around Kyangwali refugee settlement in Hoima district that week. She, and 7 other women, are gathered at the AAH-I Kyangwali office to submit reports detailing how many expectant mothers they have been in touch with and what topics they discussed during these visits.
According to the World Health Organization, most maternal deaths are preventable, as the health-care solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known. All women need access to antenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after childbirth. This however is not necessarily the case for women living as refugees who have limited access to comprehensive health care.
This is where Antoinette and the other women come in – they are playing their role as champions supporting safe motherhood in Hoima district. Their role in ‘pregnancy mapping’ is centered around training mothers on the importance of pre-natal care, pregnancy diets, fundal height measurements and importance of delivery at a medical facility. Their efforts have contributed in ensuring that the number of live births attended by skilled personnel around Kyangwali refugee settlement was 1,494 in 2017.
Although they themselves are also living as refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and from South Sudan, they are now supporting women through their pregnancy despite their own status. They each support at least 4 women every month. They are former traditional birth attendants or have a passion for helping other refugees.
Antoinette came to Uganda in 2001, fleeing conflict in Jomba in the Democratic Republic of Congo where she lived with her family. “For me life at the refugee camp is not what I had imagined for my family and I, but I keep a positive attitude and try to find beauty in the pain. Taking time to help other women around the camp is a way of seeing beyond my circumstances,” she says.
This initiative is under the AAH Uganda multi sectoral programme (community services, social protection, education, health, water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihood, environment and energy, logistics and infrastructure) in Kyangwali Settlement (Hoima District), being implemented with support from UNHCR. This programme deliverables are geared towards improving the quality of lives for refugees and nationals through supporting self-reliance and livelihoods, systematic integration of social services delivery with local government systems, which would in turn strengthen social cohesion, foster economic self-reliance and enhancing socio-economic growth.
The specific goal of the health project is to ensure optimal access to reproductive health and HIV services. This is in line with AAH-I’s strategic objective 2 of designing and delivering sustainable basic services in partnership with livelihood-challenged communities. AAH-I supports these safe motherhood champions with training, logistical support and basic tool kit to promote hygiene.
This project is complementing SDG 3 targets 3.1 and 3.7 of ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes, and reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.