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KOICA-UNICEF sign partnership to strengthen maternal, new born and child health services

UNICEF Uganda
© UNICEF Uganda

By Catherine N. Makumbi

The Korean International Co-operation Agency (KOICA) and UNICEF have signed an 8.5 million US dollar partnership to strengthen maternal, new born and child health services in Karamoja and Acholi regions of Uganda.

The four year partnership, will tame high maternal and new born mortality in 10 districts of Karamoja (Abim, Amudat, Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto, Napak and Nakapiripirt) and three districts of Acholi (Agagi, Kitgum and Pader).

The agreement was signed at UNICEF Uganda country offices in Kampala by KOICA Uganda representative Ms. Jun Youngsuk on behalf of her institution as did her UNICEF counterpart Ms. Aida Girma.  The ceremony was witnessed by the South Korean Ambassador to Uganda, Mr. Park Jong-Dae.

The Korean grant, Girma said is timely as UNICEF and other partners are currently assisting the Government of Uganda to operationalise the sharpened reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) plan. “The grant will enable us align our efforts at various levels for improved service delivery of RMNCH services towards reversing the stagnation or slow progress in averting maternal and child mortality,” she told the media.

More significantly, according to Girma, the partnership will enable UNICEF and partners address the critical issues of inequity in maternal and new born health service coverage and related challenges, specifically in hard to reach areas of Karamoja and Acholi sub regions. “While the national maternal mortality ratio is 438 per 100, 000 live births, the ratios in Karamoja and Acholi sub regions stand at 750 and 561 respectively,” Girma further added.

Youngsuk revealed that KOICA and UNICEF would conduct joint reviews, technical guidance and routine monitoring for the success of the project. She explained that the grant arrangement demonstrates KOICA’s deep rotted commitment towards development cooperation in Uganda.

Targeted beneficiaries are 103, 071 pregnant women, 15, 460 of those presenting with labour complications, and 100, 000 children under five including new born.
Grace Latigi, UNICEF Health Officer said they would work with the established state structures at national level through the Ministry of Health and district local governments, two local non-governmental organisations and communities.

Giving a background to the project, Latigi said the collaboration between UNICEF and KOICA started in 2013 with a field visit to Karamoja by a team from both institutions to conduct a needs assessment around maternal child health.

Latigi explained that Karamoja and Acholi were selected because they are hard to reach and hard-to-stay areas; inadequate functional health facilities and referral services, poor infrastructure for transport and communication, limited skills among some health workers, limited equipment at the health facilities  and limited essential medicines critical to saving the lives of the mothers and new born.

Ambassador Jong-Dae called upon the Ministry of Health to work alongside UNICEF in recruiting health care personnel in the beneficiary districts to ensure adequate staffing so as to increase access to quality maternal and child health care.

Expected key results at end of partnership:
• Increased availability and readiness of Essential Maternal New-born Child Health services;
• Skilled health workers that provide Minimum New-born Child Health Package with Emergency Obstetric New-born Care linked to other health programmes;
• Health facilities with appropriate medical equipment, commodities and innovative technology to provide essential and emergency Maternal New-born Child Health services; and
• Village Health Teams (VHTs) with tan enhanced capacity to deliver the minimum Maternal New-born Child Health package at village.

About the KOICA grant
In 2007, the Korean Government introduced an air ticket solidarity levy entitled “Global Poverty Eradication Contribution.” Under this programme, the international flight passengers departing from Korea contributed 1, 000 KRW equivalent to 1 US dollar. After accumulation of the levy, it was allocated to Government as the “Korean Innovative Maternal and Child Health Initiative” Fund.
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