Making Maternal Health Matter in Uganda

By: Nikki W.

I’d hope it wasn’t true, but all indications are that even now, sometimes the difference between life and death is merely money.This New York Times story about maternal deaths in Uganda makes a point that is often lost as so many around the world rush to aid countries where women–and, very often, girls–are dying during pregnancy and childbirth: it’s an issue of priorities.

It also raises broader questions about the unintended impact of foreign aid on Africa’s struggling public health systems. As the United States and other donors have given African nations billions of dollars to fight AIDS and other infectious diseases, helping millions of people survive, most of the African governments have reduced their own share of domestic spending devoted to health, shifting to other priorities.

For every dollar of foreign aid given to the governments of developing nations for health, the governments decreased their own health spending by 43 cents to $1.14, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found in a 2010 study.According to the institute’s updated estimates, Uganda put 57 cents less of its own money toward health for each foreign aid dollar it collected. (emphasis mine)

This from the same country that was found to have spent $507 million euros on Russian-made fighter jets. The government claimed that Uganda need to arm itself, but it’s clear to me that Uganda needs to care for its citizens. The population in Africa is growing immensely, which means increasing obstetric care needs. The UN projects that Uganda’s population will triple to nearly 94 million by 2050 – that’s tens of millions of more babies that will need to be delivered.

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