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Supporting pregnant mothers give birth safely in disasters


SIRONKO: Childbirth does not stop even in emergencies. And when disaster strikes, women face increased risks to their health and wellbeing due to loss of medical support, trauma and violence. Such was the case of twenty five -year- old Sharon Namalike who was six months pregnant when a landslide happened in her home Nalumanda Village Bumumulo Sub County, Sironko District, eastern Uganda, last December.  By the time disaster struck, Namalike was not home as she had gone to visit her mother in the nearby village.

“In the night it rained heavily with lots of thunder. We heard loud bangs with parts of the mountain sides giving way and people screaming,” she recalls.

The next morning Namalike and other village mates returned to the village to survey the damage, rescue possible survivors and to salvage some of property.

“It was a horrible sight. Homes had been razed, gardens washed and some people dead. I lost everything among which were our house, coffee beans that I had harvested waiting to be sold and shopping that I had done in preparation for the coming baby,” she recalls.

To protect her unborn baby, Namalike was forced to return to her mother’s home for refuge.

“While there I was visited by a one Latif a Community Worker with UNFPA/ACORD who encouraged me to keep going to Health Centre for check-ups on my pregnancy which I kept doing,” she says.

On the night of 11 March, 2020 Namalike experienced labour pains as she walked with my mother to Bumumulo Health Centre III which was  2 km away. It was a very difficult journey given the mountainous terrain. They kept making stops to allow Namalike catch her breath until they arrived at the health centre. Having lost everything in the disaster, Namalike was worried because she did not have the needed items for childbirth including gloves, mackintosh and cotton. But her hopes were raised when she was well received by the medical workers on duty who immediately admitted her.

“The following day at around midday I delivered a healthy baby girl, my second child,” she says with a smile.

Mr Latif a UNFPA/ACORD Community Volunteer showing Sharon the contents in the dignity kit donated
by UNFPA  to encourage women deliver at health facilities. PHOTO: UNFPA/Jimmy Dombo.


At the health centre, after delivery, Namalike was handed a dignity kit from UNFPA which contained items necessary for a safe delivery.

“I was given some items that included baby wear some things for myself like a wrapper, sandals, soap they told me that everything had been catered for by an Organisation called UNFPA. They also told me about Family Planning and Immunisation,” she says.

“God bless the people of UNFPA for giving me these items.  I don’t know what I would have done without them,” she adds.

From September 2019, several districts in Uganda experienced flash floods and landslides due to heavy rains. Continuing through the end of the year, the most affected were Sironko and Bududa districts in Eastern Uganda and Bundibugyo district in Western Uganda. According to a report by UN OCHA, at least 38 people were reported dead and over 150 injured. In all, more than 300,000 people were affected with an estimated 65,000 displaced.

UNFPA, with the support of the Government of Uganda and humanitarian partners responded to the most urgent needs of people affected by donating dignity kits, tents for the Women and Youth Safe Spaces, sanitary pads and medical kits to affected districts.

- Written by Jimmy Dombo.