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Uganda, 5 June 2018: “I have to endure the rain, cold and darkness to save the mother and baby”

By Tom Moses Echodu

Before Omayo Paul, 48, joined the CAUMM/UNICEF Maternal Neo-natal Health project as a voucher transporter for expectant women in Iriri HCIII, he was working as a general bodaboda (motorcycle) rider, and would only transport expectant mothers to health facility at a cost. At his home in the village of Lojom, in Iriri Sub-county Napak District, Paul explains, “Whenever I was called to transport an expectant woman from a very far village to a health centre to deliver,  I was always worried if the woman could afford the transport charge of over 25,000 knowing that our women are poor. Now, thanks to CUAMM/UNICEF for the transport voucher scheme, I can transport mothers from any of the 26 villages in the 2 parishes assigned to me without asking for any money from them but be paid later at end of the month.”

Equally important, Paul Omayo is now able to transport an average of 14 expectant women to deliver in the health facility each month, and this has also enabled him to save money for his family’s well being.

Although, Paul has been transporting expectant and sick women, and children for more than 4 years, most of the time, he transported very few women to health centre, because most of them could not afford the transport fee, so they could walk for long distances or give birth at home.

The In-charge Maternity at Iriri HCIII, Asiyo Regina, remembers when she was asked by CUAMM to identify a good bodaboda rider to help transport expectant women, the first person who came to her mine was Paul Omayo. “I selected Omayo Paul because he had always brought the mothers to deliver at the facility, even from the farthest villages, and women had always respected and appreciated his kindness,” says Asiyo.

“When the health staff contacted me to work as a transporter in 2016, I did not exactly know what the job required, but I was happy to help my community, especially when I was told that I would help in transporting expectant mothers to the health facility. With this opportunity, I knew many lives would be saved, and even wished the assistance had come earlier before I lost two of my relatives, who could not make it to health centre due to excessive bleeding during labour,” says Paul Omayo.

The transporters received training on how to handle expectant mothers, ride safely, and keep good records. “We were cautioned to handle mothers with care, and ensure each expectant mother moves with a care taker, then our phone numbers were shared with community members,” recalls Paul.

It was clear that the job Omoya signed for was not an easy one, because sometimes the rider has to transport mothers on bad roads, under rain and in late hours of the night. “When a woman in labour calls me to take her to the health centre, I cannot wait because it is raining, or because it is late in the night. I have to endure the rain, cold, and the dark to save her and the baby,” says Paul.

“Another challenge that I face sometimes, is the women who call when they are almost pushing the baby, and end up delivering on the way. I have actually, supported two women who delivered on the way as I was taking them to health centre, and in both scenarios, I was not having gloves, polythene sheets, and cotton to help the mothers. We need to be supported with gloves, cotton, polythene sheets, gumboots, torches and raincoats so that we can be able to support the women who deliver as we transport them to health facility in a hygienic way,” says Omayo.

Omayo strongly agrees that the transport voucher innovation which allows them transport women free of charge has made remarkable contribution to health of mothers and babies in Iriri Sub-county, and to his personal life. Many mothers now know and appreciate the importance of delivering in the health centre, because they appreciate the care, and treatment. “Personally, my savings have increased, I have earned respect from these mothers, and some of them even give me gifts, and name their babies after me, and this motivates me to continue helping them,” says Paul.

UNICEF and it partners, in Iiriri Sub-county, Napak District are implementing a KOICA-KIMCHI and SIDA funded project focused at strengthening the continuum of care for maternal and newborn health services in Karamoja region. The activities under this project include: strengthening accountability and governance structures at district and health facility level; equipping health facilities with essential equipment; medicines and supplies; training; mentorship and coaching of health staff and volunteers on management of emergencies, supporting innovations like transport vouchers and birth cushions for pregnant mothers, supporting village health teams and peer group to conduct home visits and community dialogues.

UNICEF through its implementing partner CUAMM, district health management teams, and health facility staff, identified bodaboda riders to work as transporters for expectant mothers in hard-to-reach places who need immediate medical attention but lack money to reach the health centre. In these and many other ways, UNICEF works to meet the needs of the most vulnerable mothers and children, like those being supported by Omayo Paul, in Karamoja and other parts of Uganda.



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