Women Lawyers Consider Public Interest Litigation On Maternal Mortality

FIDA Uganda, the Association of Women Lawyers is documenting cases of mothers and infants who have died in the various hospitals in the country.

Namutumba Woman MP Florence Mutyabule
Namutumba Woman MP Florence Mutyabule has supported the idea of an adhoc committee to carry out findings and is confident it will bring good results

Mercy Munduru, the programme officer in charge Children’s rights and advocacy calls on women to report these cases to allow FIDA explore the option of public interest litigation.

Munduru says the aim is for court to pronounce itself on the issue of maternal deaths in most health facilities.

At least 16 mothers die in Uganda daily due to child-birth related complications, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Parliament last week passed a motion to set up an adhoc committee to investigate private health service providers on maternal mortality.

The Minister of Health Dr Ruhakana Rugunda was also asked to commission a study on the status of maternal health in public facilities for purposes of addressing the current challenge of maternal mortality in Uganda and to report his findings to Parliament.

Parliament also demanded that government provides its maternal health road map, loans approved and other measures to control maternal mortality and report to Parliament within one month.

Florence Mutyabule, the Woman MP for Namutumba, is confident that the adhoc committee is going to get more findings considering the statistic of 16 women dying each day has only been got from public hospitals and not private health facilities.

In July 2012, the Constitutional Court dismissed a case filed by Centre for Health Human Rights and Development, a non-governmental organisation that had teamed up with others seeking a court order declaring that it was illegal for mothers to die while giving birth.

The petitioners challenged what they called government’s failure in providing basic maternal health facilities in hospitals and the actions of health workers in neglecting expectant mothers during pre and post natal periods.

However, in their ruling the five Justices at the Constitutional Court ruled that the Executive has the political and legal responsibility to determine, formulate and implement government policies for the good governance of the country.

The Judges added that court has no power to determine or enforce its jurisdiction on matters that require analysis of the health sector.

Munduru says with the lessons learnt in the loss of that case, they are going to review petition 16 but also open up the eyes of government to remind them that maternal deaths did not come over night.

Health activists have criticized government for failing to honour its international commitments among which includes the Abuja declaration that calls for government to spend 15% of its budget on the health sector.

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