The Independent (Kampala)

19 February 2013

Uganda: Civil Society to Take Maternal Mortality Case to Supreme Court

Photo: Newvision
Uganda spends an estimated U.S. $14 million on unsafe abortions every year, according to research. (file photo).

A number of civil society organizations led by the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) are to appeal in the Supreme Court against the maternal health care case they lost last June in the Constitutional Court.

David Kabanda, the director of programmes at CEHURD noted that although there was non-vindication of the right to health/maternal health and demoralization of some maternal health activists and the case set a bad precedent on the litigation of such issues and particularly maternal health in Uganda, civil society is unfazed and will be proceeding to the supreme court to push through their petition.

He however noted the case was not a waste of time because, overall, there has been improved maternal health services in general hospitals, and there is a growing number of individual cases/litigation of maternal mortality. There is also parliamentary activism on maternal health and health budget influence.

"We are not telling the government to provide 100% but to at least do their best to avoid these avoidable deaths of mothers," Kabanda recently told journalists at a health conference in Kampala.

He said even when the Supreme Court kicks it out; the Uganda government should prepare to see itself in the international courts.

In 2011, about 40 civil society bodies filed a constitutional petition in the Constitutional Court of Uganda arguing that Ugandan women die in hospitals unnecessarily and the deaths are a violation of human rights.

In Uganda, maternal mortality remains high at 435 per 100,000 live births with 16 women alone dying from preventable causes every day. Most maternal deaths are due to causes directly related to pregnancy and childbirth, unsafe abortion and obstetric complications such as severe bleeding, infection, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labour.

The judges said although maternal mortality remains a big problem that needs to be urgently addressed, any ruling contrary to that would be deemed as interference with the executive's mandate.

The civil society organizations were seeking declaration that by failing to provide the essential medical commodities and adequate health services to pregnant women, the government is violating their constitutional rights as mothers of Uganda.

They also sought compensation for the families of those who have lost their loved ones during deliveries for lack of the essentials in hospitals and health centres.

Kabanda said they are going to carry on with the maternal mortality case not simply because these are women in the prime of their lives...not simply because a maternal death is one of the most terrible ways to die but above all, because almost every maternal death is an event that could be avoided and should never have been allowed to happen.

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