6 May 2011

Uganda: Shortage of Midwives Failing Efforts to End Maternal Deaths

Photo: Maggie Fick
A mothern and newborn at the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital in Kano.

The growing shortage of midwives is contributing to Uganda's failure to end maternal and child deaths, the government has said.

At least 2,000 additional midwives are required to provide skilled care during antenatal, delivery and postnatal care including providing family planning and immunisation services.

Addressing journalists as part of yesterday's International Day of the Midwife, Health Minister Stephen Mallinga in a statement read for him by the Assistant Commissioner for Health Promotion, Mr Paul Kagwa, explained that the shortage of midwives is affecting the quality of maternal and new born care.

Uganda's maternal and child mortality rates remain high at 435 per 100,000 and 137 per 1,000 births respectively. "This maternal mortality ratio translates to about 6,000 women dying every year due to pregnancy related causes which remains unacceptably high,"Dr Mallinga said.

"Major causes of maternal health can be prevented if women deliver with the assistance of a skilled health personnel and have access to quality emergency obstetric care,"he added.

According to a report by Save the Children, the world needs an additional 350,000 midwives.

Numbers play

It says one in three women around the world gives birth without the help of a midwife or skilled attendant and two million others give birth entirely alone.

The Secretary General of the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union, Mr Patrick Bateganya, blamed the shortage of midwives on the current recruitment system which absorbs a limited number of health workers at a time.

Coupled with this, Mr Bategaya said there is a growing tendency by districts to recruit their own health workers which is always characterised by beauracracy.

"The problem is policy. The midwives are there, many graduate but the government ceiling system cannot allow them to get absorbed and many are left on the streets," Dr Bategaya said.

Ms Janet Jackson, the country representative for the UN Population Fund, said filling the midwife gap is critical in saving the lives of mothers and children.

Midwives and nurses undergoing assessment at Mulago. Uganda does not have enough midwives to take care of the many births.

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