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PIGA DEBE” in Kiswahili means “make a big noise,” and draws its inspiration from millions of women’s voices in Africa who say “enough is enough. Women should not die while giving life.” Translated into Luganda, the campaign is referred to as “Gwanga mujje.”

The launch of the campaign in Uganda was the first phase of launches organized across Africa that are aimed at drawing the attention of African governments to the scandalous fact that thousands of women continue to die needlessly during childbirth. Other launches were held across African countries including Liberia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Ghana.
Ms. Rita Acitor of the Uganda’s Women Network (UWONET) gave a brief background of the maternal health situation in Uganda.

“According to the Uganda Democratic Health Survey (2006), the maternal mortality rate is 435 in 100,000, while the target is 131 in 100,000 by 2015,” she said. “The maternal mortality rate is high due to a number of factors, including cultural practices, passive male partners, low levels of deliveries by skilled health workers and low contraceptive rates. It is important to note that 99% of these deaths are preventable; therefore lives are being lost needlessly.”

Hon. Sempala, woman MP for Kampala, said, “The government is quick to sign international and regional gender sensitive treaties, but is adamant when it comes to passing laws such as the domestic relations bill and the sexual offences bill. These are laws that are important to ensuring gender empowerment, thus providing women [with] a legal avenue to seek redress in cases where their rights are violated.”
The MP called on the government to pass favorable legislation to advance the cause of women and make the vision of women’s emancipation a reality by 2015.

Hon. Beatrice Anywar, woman MP for Kitgum, also added her voice by calling on the civil society organizations present to take the campaign to rural populations, who are the most affected people. She said the campaign will enable the voiceless to give their side of the story, thus making a passionate call to the government to improve maternal health services.

In Africa, a women’s risk of dying from treatable or preventable complications of pregnancy and child birth is 1 in 22 — compared to 1 in 7,300 in developed countries. More than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year. Of these deaths, 99 % are in developing countries. Post-natal mortality accounts for almost 40% of the estimated 9.7 million deaths of children under the age of five and for nearly 60 % of infant deaths.

It is now time for citizens to re-double their efforts to pressure their governments to adopt the appropriate policies and budget prioritizations to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.


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