Support to Emergency Response and Continuity of Essential Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Nutrition Services in the Context of COVID-19 in Uganda

Remarks by Dr. Doreen Mulenga, UNICEF Representative in Uganda

09 July 2020
coronavirus, COVID-19, newborn health, child health, maternal health, Government of Sweden
UNICEF Uganda/2020/Ntabadde

It is a pleasure to be here today with all of you. On behalf of UNICEF Uganda, I’d like to express our gratitude to the Government of Sweden for its ongoing commitment to improving the health of women and children in Uganda. 

  • Since 2017, Sida has been an essential partner in strengthening district health service delivery, particularly in West Nile, for both host and refugee communities.  
  • Sida’s investments in maternal, newborn, and child health services and WASH infrastructure have substantially improved the ability of health facilities and hospitals across West Nile to comprehensively manage pregnancy-related and newborn complications. 
  • Thanks to these investments, we saw marked improvements in the number of women attending four or more ANC visits, which increased from just 40% in 2017 to 52% by 2019.  By 2019, we saw a 15% increase in institutional deliveries, as well, with more mothers and newborns surviving.

Unfortunately, we currently find ourselves at a perilous moment.  The arrival of COVID-19 has upended so much of how we do business, while threatening many of the positive gains that the Swedish government and UNICEF have committed ourselves to over the years. 

From the very beginning, however, the Swedish government recognized what was at stake.  Sida worked with UNICEF to re-programme grants worth more than 800,000 US dollars to support COVID-19 response and mitigation measures, which helped meet essential needs in the country, from procuring additional Personal Protective Equipment, to developing risk communication materials, which have been critical for prevention efforts.  
This new grant, which will support essential maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health and nutrition services in the context of COVID-19, will build on the foundations of Sida’s prior investments in West Nile, while adding 7 additional districts affected by COVID-19 and other recent emergencies.  

This grant will be essential in helping us avoid some of the dire reversals to health and nutrition gains that could occur in the absence of this support.  

  • Between April 2019 and April of this year, for instance, Uganda saw a 10% drop ANC4 attendance, and an 11% reduction in institutional deliveries. We partly attribute these numbers to the restrictions on movement that were put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 
  • Sida is already helping address some of these challenges by supporting boda-boda referral systems and inter-district transfers of pregnant women who need urgent medical attention.
  • This new Sida grant will allow us to go further in strengthening district emergency preparedness and coordination, while ensuring that service delivery is executed safely through the provision of supplies and capacity-building in the 7 new districts.  This grant will also establish high-dependency units and ICUs in the West Nile districts, allowing them to better handle complex pregnancy-related complications. 

One of the significant features of this new grant is its focus on 18 districts throughout the country that have been heavily affected by not just COVID-19, but are facing a number of other challenges as well, from hosting refugee communities (including recent arrivals from neighboring countries), to grappling with other calamities such as flooding, which has devastated infrastructure and livelihoods in several districts, while triggering mass displacement.  

We have our work cut out for us.  But with this new grant, we have the life-saving resources needed to build on previous gains, while keeping more women and children alive and thriving. 

Before I conclude, please allow me to recognize the tireless work of the partners who will join us in implementing this project, including local governments and district health management teams, as well as Kawempe Referral Hospital, AVSI, and Baylor.

Media Contacts

Catherine Ntabadde
Communication Specialist
Tel: +256 772 147 111
Tel: +256 772 629 567


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit 

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook