My rude awakening to the plight of mothers and newborns in our hospitals
By Hilda Namakula |
I find maternal and newborn health in Uganda having the greatest need for intervention but still neglected as the country has other priorities to focus on which one may consider “income generating ones”. The health of mothers and children is on a stretcher, figuratively speaking. This may be hard to comprehend until one decided to find out what transpires in some of the health facilities.
Personally, I had no idea that more needs to be done in maternal and newborn health until I visited the different health facilities in some South Eastern Uganda.
The days I spent in these health facilities were a mixture of highs and lows. Starting with the highs, where mothers would come out of the labour suite alive with their newborn babies; preterm babies are discharged from the hospital because they have now stabilized and have a chance to grow; mothers coming back with preterm babies for review when the baby weight has increased, temperature has stabilised, and they have completely changed their feeding habits, the smiles on their parents and care givers faces could tell it all.
That aside, coming to the lows, I witnessed first hand disempowerment that comes with poverty and limited equipment in hospitals. Babies share incubators, mothers lay on the floor as they wait for their babies in special care unit, the congestion in the units that even increases on the chances of infection rates, and limited number of health workers who work so hard to man all the different sections in the hospitals’ maternity wards.
Talk about the rampant power outages, yet the hospitals like Iganga do not have a power back up to cater for the babies fighting for their lives. The fear and anguish in the mothers and care givers whenever there is a power outage is touching. They cry for help from every new face they see because this gives them hope that the health worker “savior” has come only to realize you can not be of help but rather another person trying to accomplish a given task.
One evening while at one of the health facilities, I saw a baby die and I could not do much. The baby had distress at birth and stayed for only three days. It was so heart breaking to see it complete its last breath. In an era of calls for respectful maternity care, I was dismayed by the health worker’s reaction and comments (hard to reproduce here) as she saw off the dead baby’s family. The look on the family members made my heart bleed the more and kept wishing I could bring the baby back to life. I thought of what it would have been baby had survived and wondered how many of them we are losing in such a way.
I now appeal to all the different actors to please pay attention to maternal and newborn health because these little lives and mothers we are losing create the future and hold the country’s hope so there is need to save their lives to create the Uganda we want. Its every child’s right to grow and its every child’s right to grow with their parents so let’s save the babies and mothers.