“I wish things were like this every day—my twins would have survived.” This statement cut deep into Silvia Chebet’s audience, which included several members of Uganda’s parliament. They were gathered at the Uganda Women’s Parliamentarians Association (UWOPA) stakeholder meeting on maternal and child health.
“I delivered my twins with the help of a Traditional Birth Attendant because I could not afford to deliver at a health center,” said Silvia. “With a lot of pain, I bled immensely and unfortunately lost my twins. For my second pregnancy, I was introduced to the voucher card and its benefits. Six months later, I went to the health center, was tested and given all the necessary care.”
Silvia was one of several speakers to discuss how Uganda’s parliament can increase demand for--and access to--maternal health services. The event was organized by the Abt-led USAID Voucher Plus activity in partnership with UWOPA.
Uganda’s roadmap for accelerating the reduction of maternal and newborn deaths identifies access to institutional deliveries as one of its key strategies, and USAID is working with Abt to implement the five-year Voucher Plus maternal health project. The project’s goal is to increase access to maternal and newborn health services for poor pregnant women in 35 districts, thereby reducing maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity. Voucher Plus is a result-based financing project that operates through the private sector; women who cannot afford maternal health services receive vouchers enabling them to buy services worth 100,000 Ugandan shillings (or an estimated $27 USD) for 4,000 shillings ($1 USD). With a voucher, a woman is able to visit the health center, and receive:
- Antenatal care,
- HIV counselling and testing (elimination of Mother to Child Transmission for the positive),
- Safe delivery in health facilities,
- Referral transportation for emergencies,
- Postnatal care check-ups,
- Treatment for the management of neonatal illnesses and pregnancy-related complications, and
- Postpartum family planning services.
Studies have shown that Uganda has quickly made progress in reducing maternal and child deaths but a lot still needs to be done. “Maternal mortality has improved from 435 per 100,000 live births to 365 per 100,000 live births in Uganda,” Uganda parliament member Monicah Amoding said in her keynote address.
Abt’s Christine Namayanja, Voucher Plus’ Chief of Party, told the audience that 156 service providers in 35 districts have been accredited to provide quality maternal health services and four private wings in private hospitals have been created. The project is working with more public health facilities to create private wings that will facilitate improvements in the referral and continuity of care for women in need of maternal services.
“There has been an increased use of antenatal care services,” noted Namayanja. “Out of 71,389 deliveries, 71,000 returned for post-natal care in the past two years.” And there’s room to do more. UWOPA members will visit Ugandan districts with voucher services to appreciate the impact of the maternal voucher services on rural women. These women parliamentarians can make a huge difference in driving the demand and sale of vouchers, helping to further achieve the project’s goal of reducing maternal and child deaths in Uganda.
Video: Fight Against Maternal Mortality