*Blog post by Shanti Uganda volunteer Lauren of her experiences in Uganda*
Safe Motherhood Uganda is a yearly event put on by the Ugandan Ministry of Health, along with dozens of other NGO, governmental, and local organizations all dedicated to health and wellness that somehow intersects maternal healthcare. This year it was held in Luweero district, and in fact, the events were held in the futball field around the corner from the Shanti Uganda volunteer house! A collaboration of folks from around Uganda began preparing the previous through a series of meetings and events held in Kasana Town, Luweero the week before Safe Motherhood Day actually happened.
16 women lose their lives in Uganda every day due to pregnancy related complications, 90 percent of these deaths are completely preventable. Safe Motherhood Uganda began in 2007 and has been held in different districts each year. The goal of Safe Motherhood Uganda is to form a coalition in order to attempt to prevent these deaths, and to find plausible solution for decreasing this atrocity. Groups such as UNFPA, White Ribbon Alliance, Engender Health, Shanti Uganda, as well as many others participated in this noteworthy event. One of the major goals of the event is to find a way to fill the void in the lack of availability many, if not most Ugandans have to facilities that offer maternal healthcare- One of the greatest challenges faced is the shortfall of 2,000 midwives in Uganda.
The day began with a march led by a youth marching band through the surrounding communities, where it was obvious attention was being drawn by the dozens of dancing children and curious bystanders. The field where the event was held was bordered by several dozen tables of organizations contributing to the event. Hundreds of Ugandans received massesof brochures, posters, stickers, booklets, etc. with information varied as HIV prevention to obstetric fistula. Hundreds of boxes of condoms as well as female condoms where distributed, and mothers with babies were given mosquito nets. Bicycles were distributed to the village health teams, and lunch was graciously served to all of the midwives and participants.
Shanti Uganda had a table decorated with posters of services offered, displayed baby kits and reusable pads, a learning blanket, as well as beads and bags made by the Women’s Income Generating Group. We had many visitors interested in the prospects of antenatal yoga, and also had many questions surrounding the reusable pads distributed at our teen girls’ workshop. After the event, a course was held for the midwives on preventing cervical cancer, which related to the cancer screenings that had been held in Kasana the previous week.
The event was long and informative! Everyone came away from the event having learned about a new topic, and contact information for an organization to connect with. We hope that when it comes time for Safe Motherhood next year we can see a reduction of maternal mortality and changes that have been made throughout Uganda to improve the health of mothers!