Ugandans bring suit over deaths in childbirth

Published May 28, 2011


Kampala - Relatives of two woman who died in childbirth launched a landmark lawsuit against the Ugandan government Friday to highlight the failure to provide adequate maternal healthcare.

Hundreds of activists and family members gathered at Uganda's constitutional court in Kampala for the start of proceedings that campaigners say could force the government to ramp up spending on the issue.

“I would like to ask our government to put enough money into the ealth facilities so that our mothers stop dying,” said Godfrey Kisiga, whose mother Sylvia Nalubowa died in childbirth in 2009.

Kisiga, 25, said his mother died after medical workers asked for bribes and then refused to treat her.

“My mother would not have died if the nurses had attended her and if the clinic had had more money,” Kisiga said.

At least 16 women in Uganda die each day in childbirth, according to UN statistics.

Activists blame rampant corruption and a lack of trained staff for many of the deaths and say that while Uganda's population has boomed the health budget has remained stagnant in recent years.

“We need more health workers, we need more equipment and infrastructure, we need more investment ... but government is not even covering the minimum,” said Robinah Kaitiritimba, executive director of the National Health Consumers Organisation.

Nool Nakibuuka, a lawyer representing the families, said that they were hoping to prove that the government had failed in its constitutional obligations to provide expectant mothers with healthcare.

“We hope to get a court declaration saying that the government is violating the right to health and life... and therefore force them to increase budgets and spending,” Nakibuuka said.

Earlier this week Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni repeated government promises to bolster maternal healthcare in the country, after giving a struggling young mother of triplets $1200.

Museveni “has pledged ... to improve maternal health and to promote awareness in the rural areas for the need for mothers to always deliver in a medical facility to curb cases of maternal mortality,” the president's office said in a statement on Monday. - Sapa-AFP

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