Uganda's Pregnant Disabled Women Suffer Discrimination and Neglect

2033 Views Kampala, Uganda
Maternal health facilities for women with physical disabilities are still in short supply around Uganda and lives of expectant mothers and their babies are increasingly risk. Rehema Nagirinya, a social worker, has personal experience of the inadequate facilities for women with disabilities. In the early 1990s she developed a tumor on the right side of her head. It disfigured her greatly and made her partially blind. Nagirinya says she always wanted a normal life with a husband and children. After 15 years, got married and in 2006, at the age of 35, she conceived her first child. Nagirinya says she has experienced prejudice throughout much of her adult life and this increased when she was pregnant. She recalls nurses and midwives in hospital mocking her for conceiving in her 30s and taunting her for her disabilities. //Cue in: "When I was pregnant ..." Cue out: "... you."// Rehema Nagirinya says she didn't take the abuse lying down. She explained her condition to the nurses who apologized to her. Unfortunately her dream of having a child was not to be. Two days to her delivery she fell off a pickup truck and injured her back. She was rushed to hospital and on arrival was told her baby was dead. Nagirinya now dedicates her life to working with women, who because of physical disabilities are unable to receive quality care in hospitals around Uganda. Ministry from Health statistics indicate that 435 women, out of 100,000, die in childbirth. It isn't clear how many of these cases are of women with disabilities. A former nursing student at Mulago Hospital, who only wishes to be identified as Gladys, says that during her training she witnessed several bungled cases in delivering disabled women. She says many of the women were discriminated against and because of their severe disabilities, developed complications. Gladys says numerous disabled women were abandoned at Mulago Hospital by their relatives and received little care. Dr. Pius Okong, an obstetrician and gynecologist at St. Francis Hospital in Nsambya, says there is no reason for the needless death of women with disabilities. He says all midwives are trained to deal with a wide range of complications, including those that may develop with disabled women. //Cue in: "When we are trained ..." Cue out: "by caesarian section."// A national rehabilitation health care policy is being drafted, which will in part, deal with breaking the barriers to accessing quality health services in Uganda. Dr. Okong says medical training schools must go further to train nurses and doctors in specialized care for the deaf, blind, mentally ill and people with other physical disabilities. //Cue in: "To train staff ..." Cue out: "... I believe."//