More effort is needed to improve health indicators

There is a bit of good news in the latest Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) compiled by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos).

Maternal mortality (the number of women who die of pregnancy-related complications) has dropped to 366 for every 100,000 live births, down from 438 in 2011. The figure recorded in 2001 was 524.

In addition, under-five mortality (the probability of a child dying between birth and their fifth birthday) has reduced to 64 deaths out of every 1,000 live births, from 90 deaths in 2011. In 1989, it was estimated at 177 deaths.

Infant mortality (probability of dying before the first birthday), on the other hand, has decreased from 54 in 2011 to 43 in 2016. In 1989, it was estimated at 98 deaths.

On the face of it, these may appear to be small gains but in reality they are very significant. Every mother that has been saved from possible death during maternity should be celebrated because no woman deserves to die while trying to give life.

The same applies to children. That 64 children out of every 1,000 live births die before their fifth birthday is still one too many, but there is undeniable progress.
Notwithstanding the relative progress, the survey also captures disturbing indicators which, if left un-addressed, have the potential to undo some of the gains made.

For instance, the survey finds that 25 per cent of adolescent girls in Uganda (aged 15-19) have begun child bearing. This finding has significant health and education implications. On the one hand, teenage mothers are likely to experience difficult pregnancies. On the other, teenagers involved in childbearing are likely to be out of school.     

Therefore, while there is good reason to celebrate the good news in the survey, there is still a long way to go. The ministry of health and other stakeholders should double their efforts so that by the time the next UDHS comes around, approximately five years today, there is even more good news and less bad news.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd