CERF: Providing maternal health care in a refugee camp in Uganda

1 October, 2012
These villagers carry their belongings as they head towards the border with Uganda during an earlier exodus from North Kivu province.Credit: UNHCR/J.Akena
These villagers carry their belongings as they head towards the border with Uganda during an earlier exodus from North Kivu province.Credit: UNHCR/J.Akena

Twenty-two-year-old Alice Furaha was five months’ pregnant when she fled her home in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in May. This year, fighting between the Government and rebel groups has forced hundreds of thousands of Congolese to flee to neighbouring countries.  

When Alice arrived at the border in Uganda, she was taken to the transit centre in Kisoro and eventually transferred to the Rwamwanja settlement in the south-west. Alice experienced a still birth just last year and was worried about the risks of delivering in a refugee settlement.
 
At the settlement, many women were giving birth in temporary shelters. Only one ambulance was available to take women to hospitals if they experienced complications and needed emergency obstetric care. There was not enough medical equipment, supplies or health-care staff to provide life-saving care and treatment. To support critical maternal health-care services, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) gave more than US$200,000 to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) as part of a total contribution of $6.8 million for emergency assistance in Uganda.
 

On 26 August 2012, Alice delivered a healthy baby boy at Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital, some 80 kilometres from the settlement. "When the labour pains started, I went to the Rwamwanja Health Centre expecting everything to be fine," Alice said. "I was shocked when the midwife told me that I needed to be referred to Fort Portal Referral Hospital because my baby was in distress." 
 
Luckily, with UNFPA’s support, a Ugandan Red Cross ambulance helped transport Alice to the hospital to get the treatment she needed.
 
“We have been able to register and monitor pregnant women in camps. We have been able to mobilize volunteers to make sure that women have access to health care during pregnancy, child birth and following delivery,” said Janet Jackson, UNFPA’s Uganda Country Representative. 
 
“Ambulance services are now available in emergencies, and hygiene kits including sanitary items have been distributed. Volunteers have also been trained to provide support to survivors of gender-based violence. The assistance would not have been possible without the CERF funding,” she added.  
 
Reporting by Penninah Kyoyagala Tomusange and Veronica Njikho/ UNFPA Uganda
 
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