UGANDA: Constitutional Court orders Gov’t to prioritize Maternal Health

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The Constitutional court has ruled that Government’s omission to adequately provide basic maternal health care services in public health facilities violates the right to health, the right to life and the rights of women thereby contravening  Articles 8A, 22, 33, 39, 45, of the Constitution.

The Justices observed that much as financial resources are a constraint to the provision of adequate maternal health care services in Uganda; what the Government failed to do was to annually at the time of budgeting prioritize funding the maternal health sector and disburse all the budgeted amounts to the specific centres,  yet the constitutional obligation of the State to provide these services to uphold the rights of women and fulfill their reproductive rights and needs cannot be ignored.

The 5 Justices Led by the Acting Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo also noted  that the actions of the servants of government that is medical personnel who left Sylvia Nalubowa to die in child birth on 19th/August/2010 from Mityana District Hospital and Anguko Jennifer to bleed to death on 10th/December/2010 in Arua Referrel Hospital, without effort to save their lives and that of the unborn child of Anguko; such acts justify an award of exemplary damages to the Petitioner.

The Judges then ordered the Government through the Attorney General to pay the Petitioners Rhoda Kukiriza and Inziku Valente a total sum of 155Mshs each; 70 mshs as general damages for the Psychological torture, violation of the rights to life, health and cruel and degrading treatment of their loved ones; and another 85Mshs for the loss suffered as a result of acts and omissions of the medical personnel at Mityana Hospital and Arua Regional Referral Hospital.

Health Rights Activists under their Umbrella Organisation; Centre for Health Human Rights and Development filed this Petition in 2011 on behalf of the Victims and sought to challenge the Government’s omission to adequately provide basic maternal health services and commodities in public health facilities; the Constitutional court first dismissed this case as a Political Question but CEHURD appealed in the Supreme court and Seven Justices of the Court led by now Retired Chief Justice allowed the appeal and sent back the case file to the Constitutional court with a directive to have  this matter heard on its merits hence this Land Mark Ruling and Victory to Women in Uganda that has taken nine years to achieve.

Some of the declarations and orders the Justices have made in this case include;
The Government should in the next financial year prioritize and provide sufficient funds in the national budget for maternal health care.

The Ministry of health is directed to  ensure that all staff who provide maternal health care services in Uganda are fully trained and all health centres are equipped within the next 2 financial years 2020/2021 and 2021/2022.

The Ministry of Health is directed to compile and submit to Parliament, with a copy to Court a full audit report on the status of maternal health in Uganda at the  end of the next 2 financial years.

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