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KAMPALA, UGANDA - The number of mothers dying during childbirth has gone down following more women using family planning and delivering at a health facility under skilled care. The latest figures contained in the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) reveal that pregnancy-related deaths have steadily been declining from 524 in 2001 to 438 in 2011, and now stand at 368 per 100,000 live births.  

Uganda’s Health Minister Dr.  Jane Ruth Aceng attributed this progress to concerted efforts by Government of Uganda, Development Partners including the United Nations Family, CAUM and other Non-Government Organizations, to provide high impact maternal, newborn and child health interventions in the under-served and hard-to-reach districts of Karamoja and South Western Uganda.

“It is motivating to the people in the health sector to see that the investments by Government and development partners have yielded good results,” said Dr. Aceng said, in her ending remarks at the launch of the preliminary report in Kampala, March 14, 2017.

According to the survey report, the proportion of women attended to by a skilled provider while giving birth has increased over the years, from 45 percent in 2006 to 58 percent in 2011 and now at 74 percent in 2016. Similarly, the proportion of women giving birth in a health facility has increased from 42 percent in 2006 to 57 percent in 2011 and now at 73 percent in the 2016 UDHS.

Dr. Aceng specifically commended the health workers, “Health workers are the unsung heroes behind this work, without them we wouldn’t see an improvement in our indicators,” she said.

Indeed, reports from health officials in Kotido district, Karamoja region indicate a major increase in facility deliveries. “There has been significant improvement with support from UNFPA, supervised deliveries increased from 14 percent in 2010 to 64 per cent in 2016,” said Dr. Phillip Olinga, Kotido District Health Officer, a few days before the launch of the UDHS, 2016.

The report further showed that 58 percent of the total demand for family planning is being met with 39 percent cent of married women and 51 percent of sexually unmarried women in Uganda using a contraceptive method. This is an increase from 2011 where 24 percent of all women (30 percent of married women, and 52 percent of sexually active unmarried women) were using some method of contraception.

Teenage Pregnancy remains high

The study reveals poor indicators on adolescent sexual and reproductive health, showing that 25 percent of adolescent girls age 15-19 have begun childbearing. Adolescent pregnancy varies according to geographical location, wealth quintile and education level.

This revelation comes at a time when Uganda is in the final stages of developing the Monitoring and Evaluation framework for the second National Development Plan (NDP II) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notes Mr. Alain Sibenaler, the UNFPA Country Representative. The UDHS 2016 indicates that the issue of adolescent fertility is important on both health and social grounds. Teenage mothers are more likely to experience adverse pregnancy outcomes, according to the UDHS 2016.  Uganda’s target is to reduce maternal death to 320 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020, according to the Health Sector Development Plan; and subsequently to 131 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030, the deadline to the Sustainable Development Goals.

“As such, we can only be sure to achieve Vision 2040 when we consciously undertake investment in young people and advance development of the human capital based on accurate information,” Mr. Sibenaler said.

“Up-to-date population data is indispensable for any country’s development as information on the people, their geographical distribution, their age and sex composition, their location, and other key characteristics is critical.”

In addition to the Census, the UDHS is an important household-based survey that collects data which supports the formulation of the country’s development policies and programmes.  At the launch, key findings were presented, a comprehensive analysis of the survey data will be presented in a final report to be published in mid-2017.

Technical and financial support for the 2016 UDHS was provided by the Government of Uganda, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Technical support to ensure quality of the survey and build local capacity was provided by ICF International (USA).


Story by Evelyn Matsamura Kiapi