on Friday, 10 April 2020.

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Uganda are calling on the government to ensure that critical care and other emergencies get as much attention during the fight against the COVID19 pandemic.
Under the umbrella “Coalition to Stop Maternal Mortality in Uganda” the CSOs have written an open letter to the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, urging his office to prioritise maternal health and rights in the fight against COVID19.
They commend efforts by the government to stop the spread of the pandemic through measures such as home isolation and social distancing.
However, with the country currently on lockdown, the CSOs express concern that the most vulnerable Ugandans are struggling to get their urgent health services and needs addressed.
This especially follows media reports that showed a number of mothers dying in labour due to lack of a means to travel to hospital; and that many others are giving birth from the roadside.
“While we all want to have the pandemic suppressed and not spread further, other health need need to be provided and thatfundamental health rights are not violated during this period,” the letter reads in part.
It should be noted that the maternal mortality ratio in Uganda is high at 336/100,000 live births, according to the 2016 Demographic and Health Survey. The deaths are often due to preventable causes such as excessive bleeding, sepsis and lack of skilled care during childbirth.
The CSOs thus make several recommendations as follows:
1. Ensure continuity of blood donation services by giving exemptions to the Uganda Blood Transfusion Services to collect blood. Also, make provisions for people who would like to donate blood to do so.
2. Designate emergency vehicles for each Sub-County that are solely to be used for responding to non-elective, urgent and emergency health issues including antenatal care visits, accidents, dialysis, pressure, ART refills, immunizations, etc... The contact information for this driver shall be made available to all residents, and published locally and nationally to ensure transparency and accountability. Health facilities shall be made aware of this service and must share this information with their patients to enable responsiveness to bona fide urgent health needs.
3. The national toll-free call centre shall be upgraded to include a designated number only for Ugandans who have urgent non-COVID-19 health queries, for example, that need to know the contact details for their sub-county ambulance, or need to know how they are expected to travel to the clinic during this lockdown period. This line will be staffed by trained people who understand how the Government is managing urgent health issues during this period and can communicate that effectively.
4. Recommend to Cabinet a revision to the supplementary budget request to give further prioritization to health sector expenditures beyond the currently allocated UGX82.5 Billion.
5. Immediately direct NGO partners implementing maternal health care programmes in the health sector to work during this period under a waiver that authorises their movement, so that they are able to support women visit clinics safely.
6. Supply three months of family planning commodities to clients; rapidly develop and implement new protocols for community based family planning outreach and service provision so that gains in sexual and reproductive health and rights are not lost due to concerns regarding infection control.
Compiled by Carol Natukunda, Communications Specialist, ACHEST

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