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DFID Director General visit to Uganda: UNICEF Uganda Birth Cushion innovation improves safe delivery

By Catherine N. Makumbi

She is young, always smiling and committed to save mothers and their unborn babies.  Clementina Ilukol, 21, is the only enrolled midwife at Rupa Health Centre II in Moroto District, North Eastern Uganda

In December 2014, Clementina delivered 33 women, 28 of which preferred to deliver using a birth cushion, a UNICEF Uganda innovation, cherished by most of the expectant mothers according to Clementina.  “The cushion enables the women to sit at its edge asserting more pressure to the abdomen and as such accelerating labour quickly,” she explains. This innovation has a similarity with the culture of Ng’akarimajong women who traditionally give birth while squatting, hence the preference of the cushion than the ordinary maternity bed.

On Jan 20, 2015, the DFID Director General Joy Hutcheon visited the well-equipped and clean maternity ward at Rupa Health Centre. Clementina explained that no deliveries could be made at the health centre until 2012 when the maternity and labour ward were improved on.

“The numbers have now increased because of the improved facilities in the labour ward, the maama kits, solar suitcase for lighting 24 hours, the reward vouchers given to people who transport pregnant mothers to the facility. Birth cushion which has also attracted many women. All these were given to us by UNICEF through CUAMM,” Clementina explained to Hutcheon.

The solar suitcase is another UNICEF innovation which supplies constant power to the antenatal room and labour ward. Hitherto, the midwife would use a torch.  The equipment and face lift done at the maternity ward was through CUAMM (Doctors with Africa) a UNICEF partner in Moroto.

Kevin Rubangaomiya, the In-charge Rupa Health Centre says many women used to develop complications before and after delivering in their communities. “The birth cushion has reduced vagina tear, women would experience when giving birth. Mothers and traditional birth attendants have been sensitised on the need to use the health facility. The traditional birth attendants now bring the expectant women to us for safe delivery,” she explains.

Rebecca Kwagala, Programme Specialist UNICEF Moroto Zone Office says the cushion idea was borrowed from Asia and was piloted in Karamoja. With feedback received, the cushion was modified to include a stool for a midwife to seat besides the expectant mother and a small cushion for the baby to be rested on immediately after birth.  This innovation has been introduced in all health facilities in Karamoja. Moroto alone has 11.

Hutcheon was accompanied by the DFID Head of Mission to Uganda Daniel Graymore and UNICEF’s Chief of Field Operations Phillip Dyer.  In Moroto, DFID has provided funds to UNICEF for water and sanitation, nutrition and Integrated community case management of diseases within the communities.

Hutcheon also visited other projects in areas of social protection where she engaged with elderly beneficiaries of the monthly contribution, sage and public works depicting improved farming using the terrace method; MIFUMI rehabilitation centre for girls who have been through forced marriage, gender based violence and female mutilation. Hutcheon also engaged with communities that have abandoned female genital mutilation who handed over a knife used for cutting girls and women.

She noted the good work done by the United Nations family in Moroto especially the impact it has realised on the communities. “There is a lot still to do and since there is peace now, we hope to do more. The involvement of communities is very critical if we are to create lasting change,” Hutcheon said in her briefing to the media after the visit.

DFID injects USD 28m in Karamoja in several developmental projects while they invest USD 144m every year in the country.

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