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Swedish Government offers additional funds to save women and babies in Karamoja region

H.E. Urban Andersson, Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda shakes hands with Mrs. Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Uganda after signing the agreement.

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye

The Government of Sweden has signed an agreement with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Uganda for additional support of Swedish Krona 54 million, equivalent to 6.4 million US dollars to improve maternal, newborn and adolescent health in Uganda.

The agreement was signed by H.E. Urban Andersson, the Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda. On behalf of the UN, the agreement was signed by Ms. Esperance Fundira, UNFPA Country Representative and Mrs. Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative.

The new funds will bring to a total of 25.8 million US Dollars, the two UN agencies have received from the Government of Sweden since 2011. 

From the new tranche, UNICEF will receive Swedish Krona 14 million (USD 1.6 Million) that the agency will utilize to strengthen the Continuum of Care for Maternal and Newborn health services in the Karamoja region, targeting approximately 59,680 pregnant and post-partum women and their newborns. Morestill, under the new funding agreement, 140 health workers will benefit through training and approximately 3293 Village Health Teams will receive improved training that will ensure all expectant pregnant mothers are registered and referred to the nearest health facility for safe and clean delivery.

According to Ms. Grace Latigi, UNICEF’s Health Officer, Karamoja is the most disadvantaged and poorest region of Uganda in terms of both income per capita and key human development indicators. The maternal and child mortality indicators in Karamoja are the highest in the country with maternal mortality estimated at 750 deaths per 100,000 live births and infant and newborn mortality at 87 and 29 deaths per 1,000 live births respectively (Uganda Demographic Health Survey 2011).

While addressing media, the Swedish Ambassador to Uganda H.E Urban Anderson mentioned that the support provided will definitely boost maternal and newborn health in the districts where the interventions will be implemented. “The Swedish Government is optimistic that the additional funds will further the work in the health sector in Uganda, specifically in the Karamoja region, saving many mothers and babies,” he added.

Mrs. Girma, applauded the Government of Sweden for the timely support, stressing that the new funds will build on the achievements registered from the previous support, as well as consolidate results aimed at accelerating maternal and newborn health. “This will greatly contribute to reducing maternal mortality in the seven districts of Karamoja,” she noted.

She further added that the funds come at a time when the Government and partners are implementing the new Sharpened Reproductive Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (RMNCH) Plan, which calls for high impact interventions that will significantly reduce maternal and child mortality. She called for integrated, coordinated and collaborative implementation across all sectors if sustainable results are to be registered. “You cannot address maternal health without including newborn health. The two go hand in hand,” Girma stressed.

A number of achievements were registered from the previous Swedish support. Important to mention is that there was a significant increase of deliveries in health facilities as a result of a mix of strategies that included the introduction of new innovations such as the birth cushion, solar suitcase and the transport voucher. In 2014 alone, deliveries increased from 21 per cent to 31 per cent; solar suitcases contributed 49 per cent of deliveries while birth cushions 25 per cent in health facilities of intervention.

In addition, to the above achievements, nine maternal and newborn health training sites were created in Karamoja region and a total of 135 health workers trained in life saving skills of pregnant, post-partum women and their new-borns; essential medical equipment to improve basic emergency obstetric and new-born care to 68 of 111 facilities in the region was provided; 90 students benefitted from scholarships for pre-training in midwifery, majority of which have completed and now employed in various health centres in the region; there was increased coverage of HIV infected pregnant and breastfeeding women initiated on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) leading to a decline in numbers of new infections in children and finally the introduction and roll out of Option B+ that has resulted in the rapid reduction of new pediatric infections.

Noting that Uganda was still not on track to achieve Millennium Development Goals four and five, the two agencies pledged to use the funds to improve the lives of children and women in Uganda especially those in the most deprived region of Karamoja. The interventions will build on the Millennium Development Goal successes, subsequently contributing to the recently launched Sustainable Development Goal targets through concerted efforts.

Key priority areas for the new funding on Maternal and Newborn Health
• District Health Management Teams plan, implement, monitor and evaluate priority RMNCH interventions at district level and implement RMNCH;.
• Health workers in Karamoja have capacity to provide quality goal-oriented Ante-Natal Care (ANC), safe delivery, Post Natal Care, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, newborn resuscitation and essential newborn care, infant and young child feeding;
• Health facilities have appropriate equipment and life-saving commodities to provide essential and emergency maternal and newborn health services (MIC package);
• Village Health Teams (VHTs) provide home visits to register pregnant women, identify and refer pregnant and post-partum women and newborns with danger signs and obstetric complications for care at health facilities;
• Functional transportation voucher scheme and ambulatory service benefitting pregnant and post-partum women and their newborns.

.............................Ends..........................................

Ms. Esperance Fundira, UNFPA Representative in Uganda, H.E. Urban Andersson, Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda and Mrs. Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative sign the agreement at a press event.

 

 
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