For just 4000/=, some 100,000 mothers in Eastern Uganda have managed to deliver babies at some of the best privately owned health facilities.
Dubbed the Voucher Plus Card, the initiative started in 2016 thanks to financial support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with Abt Associates and the ministry of health.
With just two years since inception, the five year programme has given up to 100,000 mothers a reason to smile by enabling them to access free healthcare by just being able to purchase a card at just UGX4000/=.
Dr Mihayo Placid who represented the ministry of health hailed the donors as a vital step in reducing maternal mortality: “We need to see mortality rate decreasing that is why the voucher plus card was introduced since most of the village mothers fail to get required antenatal care which in turn causes deaths either to the mother or the baby.”
According to Dr. Mihayo, the ministry of health is committed to end all preventable maternal and child deaths so we have to increase service deliveries in order to increase the role of private sector in expanding the quality of services mothers and babies Uganda.
Christine Namayanja, the Chief of Party Abt Associates and Uganda Voucher Plus Activity said while addressing the women Member of Parliament (UWOP) recently “The Uganda Voucher plus Activity aims at increasing safe pregnancies and safe deliveries through the private sector in 30 districts in Northern and Eastern Uganda.
Some of the lucky districts that were selected include Mbale, Sironko, Gulu, Apac, and Amuria. It was designed to give new hope to the hopeless mothers by expanding access to quality maternal and neonatal health services at highly subsidized rate for the most poor and vulnerable women in Uganda”
Why only in Eastern and Northern Uganda?
Although the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) 2016, showed some improvements in maternal and new-born health showing a decline in the number of mothers who lost lives during child birth.
But Namayanja noted that: “Although the UDHS2016 shows some improvements, maternal mortality in North and East is still worse because of lack of funds, large distance to the health centres,” She added: “This project is being spearheaded by the government of Uganda, so the choice to go to east and north was an agreement between the development partners and the ministry of health.”
In order to run this project Abt Associates through its qualified clinical team ensured that private providers are selected based on minimum criteria, trained, mentored, supervised and accredited to provide safe motherhood and new-born care for mothers presenting vouchers
According to Christine out of the 240 hospitals that applied to offer antenatal services to women in both North and Eastern region, only 159 hospitals including two regional referral hospitals were found with the requisite qualifications needed by the project implementers Abt Associates. Some of them are: Kolonyi from Mbale district, Alanyi Health centre III in Alebtong district, Soroti Medical Associates in Soroti district, Karin Medical Centre in Gulu district and Abedober Health centre from Apac district.
The vouncher plus cards are distributed to needy mothers by Village Health Teams at just UGX4000. Whoever gets the voucher is entitled to receive four antenatal care visits, safe deliveries and referrals for any complications, postnatal care and post-partum family planning services for up to six months after delivery.
“Our target is to help 250,000 poor pregnant mothers to access quality maternal and new borne services by 2020 which will cost us USD24m. So far over 100,000 poor mother have accessed these services costing over USD11.5m” said Namayanja. This means that on average, the USAID has spent over UGX 450,000 for every mother.
Beneficiaries mothers speak
19 year-old Sharon Aya, from Gulu district in Pedeka Wall village lives in a poor area. Although she couldn’t afford the money to buy a voucher card, a friend lent her UGX4000 that allowed her access. She was full of praise for the initiative.
She said: “The Voucher plus card has helped me because I didn’t have money to pay for any medical assistance and because of the card I delivered my second borne in the hospital and I got all the antenatal privileges. My first born died because of poor conditions and much blood I lost. I also nearly died.”
Jackline Lunyoro, 21, from Sironko district in Nalugugu mother to twins said: “If it was not the voucher, I would be dead now because I didn’t know that I had twins. Nurses were telling me that my baby was too big but using the voucher, I was referred to Kolonyi hospital accompanied by a midwife where I was managed to deliver through caesarean section at no cost.”