Preliminary data from a recent survey reveal a slight improvement in maternal and child health indicators in Uganda.
Preliminary data from the Uganda Demographic Health Survey 2011 show that the number of children that die before their first birthday has been reduced to 54 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 2011, down from 76 in 2006.
The results from the survey, which is done by Uganda Bureau of Statistics every five years, also show that the use of contraceptive by married women has slightly moved up to 30 percent from 24% in 2006, while the general use of modern contraceptive has increased from 18% in 2006 to 26% in 2011.
The preliminary data show that the percentage of women giving birth in health facilities has increased to 57% compared to 42% in 2006. In addition, 59% of women in Uganda are now giving birth with the assistance of skilled birth attendant.
However, there is still a large disparity between rural and urban areas, with 54% of women in rural areas seeking skilled attendants compared to 90% of women in the urban areas.
The survey also revealed that the fertility rates in Uganda have declined slightly to 6.2 children per woman in 2011 from 6.7 in 2006. In the urban areas the fertility rate is 3.8 children per woman, declining from 4.4 in 2006, while in rural areas it stands at 6.8, down from 7.1 in 2006.
The survey is an important study that gives an overview of the health situation in Uganda and provides information to guide the health sector’s future interventions and reforms.
“The issues to do with behavioral change take some time,” says Dr Jennifer Wanyana, Assistant Commissioner in the Ministry of Health, commenting on the results.
She says it is now easy to accelerate progress from small change.
“Reduction in fertility is not drastic. It will decline, if a woman had an average of six children five years ago, that average would still remain in the next five years. But we have seen fertility rates fall from 6.7 to 6.2, which is a positive leap. These indicators take time to register a difference,” she stressed.
Dr Wanyana said that although funding is increasing, the health sector is facing a problem of availability of service providers and shortage of human resources.
A member of the parliament’s social service committee, Dr Medrad Bitekyerezo, said there was a big population increase in Uganda coupled with ignorance of reproductive health matters.
“The attitude of Ugandans towards contraceptive use is negative. It is worsened by poor education of girls and some men. If girls were educated, they could use contraceptives as well as the men,” Dr Bitekyerezo said.
“ We shall not meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) if there is low funding in the health sector. We cannot depend on donors to fund health.”
He said that many children were malnourished as a result of poverty.
“How many families in the north and eastern Uganda can afford milk every day? If the mothers are hungry, the children will be malnourished.”
Emily Katarikawe , the managing director of Uganda Health Marketing Group said that many women either do not know about contraceptives or have no access to them.
“About 74% of the population is below 24 years of age and should be using modern contraceptives to prevent unplanned pregnancies. We are not reaching the people we should be reaching,” Ktarikawe said.
She added that mothers were not following child spacing of two years between each birth as recommended by the World Health Organization.
“Families are churning out many children. The attitude of individuals not using family planning methods and that of health workers must be studied,” she says.
The UN has recognized maternal and child health as key development goals. The MDGs 4 and 5 set out to reduce by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate, and by three quarters the maternal mortality rate.
Uganda, like other sub-Sahara countries in, is not progressing well on these two targets. The UN is concerned that although child mortality is falling in many countries, it is not falling quickly enough to reach the target.