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Kampala recorded highest maternal deaths in 2020-Report

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Dr Diana Atwine says doctors at lower health facilities should stop allowing nurses to carry out referrals.  

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT |  More than 170 mothers died giving birth in health facilities in Kampala. This is according to a survey released by the Ministry of Health. This is more than double the number of deaths that were reported in the 2018/2019 financial year.

Findings published in the National Annual Maternal and Perinatal Death Surveillance and Response Report 2019/2020 show that the highest number of women who died were in Kampala followed by Hoima and Masaka districts.  Other districts that reported high figures were Kabarole and Gulu.

The report shows that 177 deaths out of 85,611 recorded births occurred in Kampala followed by 50 deaths reported in Hoima. Masaka, Kabarole and Gulu all reported 45,42 and 32 respectively.  

Data from the ministry suggests that the majority of the diseases were recorded during the national lockdown in 2020 when public transport was stopped as one of the measures of forestalling the spread of COVID-19. 

The majority of the deaths were recorded among women aged 25-39 years of age where haemorrhage was the leading cause of death followed by hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.

Similarly, for mothers aged 20-24 years old haemorrhage and hypertensive disorders were the leading causes of death. However, in younger mothers aged 10-19 years, the leading cause of death was pregnancy-related sepsis at 22 percent followed by bleeding(haemorrhage), and infections such as Malaria, HIV/AIDS.

According to the 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey, 16 mothers in Uganda die every day. Four out of every ten mothers being adolescents.

Dr Richard Mihayo, the Assistant Commissioner of reproductive and infant health attributes the high number of maternal deaths that occur in Kampala as a result of high levels of congestion that reduce the level of care at health services.

The outpatient clinic at Kawempe General Hospital daily receives over 500 expectant mothers for antenatal. Dr Mihayo says the health ministry needs to work on equipping all lower health facilities to enable them to handle deliveries to enable the referral hospitals to handle serious cases.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Dr Diana Atwine says doctors at lower health facilities should stop allowing nurses to carry out referrals.

“We have been moving around the country and we have discovered that senior officers have left the work of referring patients to nurses. When you look at the referrals made, they are incomplete. A nurse just writes the name of the patient. Recently we discovered in Hoima that 50 percent of the referred patients deliver normally meaning they did not need to be referred in the first place,” Dr Atwine said.  

The survey also shows that the number of maternal deaths in the country has increased by 99 from 1,083 in the 2018/2019 financial year to 1,182 in the 2019/2020 financial year. The leading cause of deaths was haemorrhaging.

Dr Jessica Nsungwa, the commissioner of reproductive child health at the Ministry of Health says the survey shows that maternal mortality is preventable. She says that an inter-ministerial effort is needed to try and reduce the occurrence of deaths among mothers during delivery. 

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