Tuesday, May 10, 2011


By Katy Woods

It was an early start on International Day of the Midwife for the WRA Uganda team as we set off before sunrise for Iganga to take part in the 5km walk organized globally by the International Confederation of Midwives.

As we drove towards Jinja through the lush Mabira forest and sugar plantations, we turned up the radio as we heard Janet Jackson from UNFPA Uganda talking of the need to scale up the numbers of midwives in the country. The message was very clear ­ there is a critical shortage of 2000 midwives in Uganda today, which is contributing to the deaths of 16 women every day ­ equivalent to a full matatu (minibus) crashing with no survivors every single day! A somber thought as we watch the matatus hurtling towards us on the busy highway.

When we got to Iganga we visited Namungalwe Health Centre IV beside the site of the celebrations. As we met with the health workers and the patients, the impression was of a very well kept happy environment. There was a group of 25 women settled under a tree receiving family planning information from Marie Stopes, the out-patients area had a long waiting queue, but it was moving, keeping the health workers busy with immunizations and treatments. In the maternity ward we met a beautiful new mother with her very healthy baby. The health center delivers 70 babies every month and there hasn't been a maternal death there for 20 years. The immense pride that the midwives showed as they spoke on camera bowled me over. They really love their job, and they want to be the best they can at it.

As I began to ask the midwives about their accommodation, I could see where the problems with the health centre lay. I was led over to a couple of crumbling building and met by a rabble of children who all lived in the 2 bedroom houses. The houses were built in 1958 and have never been renovated. There was no sanitation and the simplest of breakages had not been mended. The cracks and fungus in the ceiling were synonymous with the cracks in the system. I spotted a lovely looking house across the grass from the midwifery accommodation and asked who lived there. 'That's the doctor's house', I was told. 'It was donated to us by Princess Anne in 1986'. As we got closer to the house, I could see the rooms were filled up with cardboard boxes, where is the doctor? I asked. The midwife looked at me with frustration, “We have never had a doctor living here.” As I looked back at the 8 children who share such tiny rooms, and think about what it must be like most nights when the rain comes through the cracks, scarily through the electrical socket, I wonder how it must feel for the midwives to look over at a comfortable, secure and fully functional home that has housed cardboard for the last 25 years. Their message was clear, Uganda needs more midwives and they need to be better treated.
Doctor's House donated by Princess Anne in 1984 - it has never been lived in. The building is in perfect condition and stores plastic furniture and boxes.
The march had started so the WRA Uganda team ran to join them. I realized my day had not been an early start once the MC began to list where all the midwives had come from to take part in the march ­ from Rwanda to Rakai and Kabale to Kaabong, the midwives had gathered to show their strength on this important day. Hillary and Ethel, WRA members and artists, kicked off the celebrations by getting the midwives on their feet to their catchy songs with strong messages on maternal health. The midwives were embracing the day and getting down to the music, they shared their stories at the WRA stall and gave statements on what they would do for midwives if they were President
of Uganda.
We spoke with MPs, the Ministry of Health officials, Local Councilors, the Police, NGOs, the Media and mothers on the need to come together to push for more midwives and better conditions. Everybody was on the same message, a very positive sign for WRA campaigning in the next year. Working together we can improve the conditions for midwives and we can convince the government to invest in more health workers. WRA Uganda is bringing its members together on a targeted campaign towards this end for the next year. 
Join the campaign with WRA Uganda and play your part for midwives, mothers and maternal healthcare. Email: info@wrauganda.org 

Mrs Margaret Hasasha, WRA Uganda Board Member attends to Midwives as they sign up to be WRA members at the IDM function grounds

Midwives and Nurses dance to WRA Uganda maternal health  music performed by Ethel and Hillary at the function

Ethel performing her new song "Save a Woman"

Hillary performs along with the nurses and nurses as they dance to the music

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