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COVID-19, Pregnant Women, and the Right to Maternal Healthcare in Uganda

*By Michele Lynda Mugenyi

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a number of effects on women across the globe. One of these has been the obstruction of women’s rights through restricted access to urgent maternal healthcare. On March 30th, Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni announced a 14-day ban on public and private transport. Since majority of Ugandans rely on private transport to get to hospitals and ambulances are in short supply, this policy has made it difficult for pregnant women to access health services when they go into labour. As a result, a number of them have died during labour.

Uganda has made progress in reducing maternal mortality. According to data from the Uganda Demographic and Health Surveys of 2011 and 2016, the maternal mortality ratio dropped from 438 deaths per 100,000 live births to 336. Nonetheless, maternal mortality is still an issue of great concern in Uganda. And the worry is that recent measures that have been taken to contain the spread of COVID-19 have, and will continue to exacerbate the issue. Past experience has shown that pregnant women suffer in the midst of pandemics.