In Uganda, nearly half of all women deliver at home, where they are far from treatment and are at increased risk of death in the event of pregnancy-related complications. Delivering at home is considered a significant contributing factor to maternal deaths in Uganda, which has among the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.
A new radio campaign, created by the Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG), supported by USAID as part of the Saving Mothers, Giving Life initiative, is designed to address the barriers that prevent women from delivering in health facilities. The messages also encourage men to play a more active role in preparing for childbirth.
“Some of my friends laugh at me for following my wife… it is not normal that a husband is involved in pregnancy and childbirth,” explains Atwirkire Wilson, a first-time father to a healthy baby boy born at Kyenjojo General Hospital, a facility supported by Saving Mothers, Giving Life. “It wasn't until I heard announcements on the radio that I realized it was very important to do this together.”
Since the campaign launched, facility deliveries have more than doubled in some districts.
Sister Gertrude, who manages a Saving Mothers, Giving Life supported health center in Nkurumba, says the radio campaign has had a significant impact. “Our women have really come to know the importance of delivering at health facilities.”
Tumuranye Sylvia delivered her last baby on the side of the road on her way to a health facility. “I left home too late. I thought I was going to die on the roadside," Sylvia explains. The radio messages have helped her prepare for her next delivery. "Next time I am going to deliver at a health facility. I even have the number ready for the bodaboda (motorcycle) driver.”
The radio campaign was inspired by research conducted by UHMG with support from Saving Mothers, Giving Life, which found that a lack of preparedness at home, lack of accessible transport and poor service delivery deter women from delivering in facilities.
Following the campaign, a UHMG behavior change survey revealed that the radio messages reached approximately 75% of the target population, helped to drive a range of healthy behaviors and made clear that delivering at a health facility could save the life of a woman or her baby. The survey also emphasized the important role husbands can play in overcoming the barriers women face in accessing safe facility deliveries.
Saving Mothers, Giving Life has been supporting health facility upgrades, training for health workers and the procurement of essential medical supplies to accommodate the increase in demand. This increase in deliveries will continue as more women — and men — are better prepared for safe facility deliveries.
While accompanying his wife to an antenatal care (ANC) clinic, twenty-three year-old Akora Charles explains, “I want to be like the man in the radio spot. He is concerned, he is the one calling for transport and gets her to the hospital. I want to be like that, too.”