Open Dialogue Can Help Improve Births Everywhere

By Winfred Ongom

April 11, 2016

Winfred1In Uganda, my home country, 17 mothers and 106 newborns die every single day during pregnancy and childbirth. The government has promised to improve the health of pregnant women, new mothers and babies, but despite their commitment, health centers across the country remain understaffed and ill-equipped. In many regions women continue to travel for hours to receive lifesaving care.

Unfortunately, this situation is not unique to Uganda, and is familiar to far too many communities around the world. Citizens want their leaders to be held accountable. They want transparency and inclusiveness.

Many governments are making the necessary efforts to improve maternal health, but they lack reliable information about the factors and conditions that contribute to maternal and newborn deaths. To address these gaps, leaders must create a feedback loop by engaging communities in an ongoing dialogue to monitor the quality and availability of critical health services.

In Uganda, my home country, 17 mothers and 106 newborns die every single day during pregnancy and childbirth.

Communication is the first step to a solution, and this approach has worked. For example, White Ribbon Alliance Uganda gathered citizens to discuss their rights and gaps in the government’s commitment to better their local health facilities. The Alliance supported citizens to petition district and national decision makers in addition to national policymakers, and trained citizen reporters and advocates to monitor progress and budget allocations.

As a result of these efforts, communities developed a better understanding of their rights and were able to advocate with confidence to the local and national officials to take action and provide lifesaving services in their health centers. Most importantly, citizens were able to provide information that was crucial for policymakers to make better, more informed decisions.


I believe that we can make a lot of progress towards ending preventable deaths of mothers and newborns, not just in Uganda, but also around the world. We need to recognize the problem, come together as a community, work with our governments to help them enact better policy, and hold them accountable to making change happen.

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