By Racheal Auma, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer, AIM Health Project, Busia District
Every expectant mother looks forward to the day she will hold her newborn baby in her arms. She is filled with excitement and anxiety. For Maureen Namagaya, it was mostly the anxiety.
The 23-year-old was anxious because the timing of the birth of her baby found her in a COVID-19 quarantine centre. Maureen was among 13 pregnant women who were intercepted at the Kenya border trying to gain access to Uganda. They were rescued and placed in quarantine at the Dabani quarantine centre. By the start of June, there were eight pregnant women being taken care of by the assigned midwife at this centre.
The COVID-19 District Task Force, led by the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), opened a quarantine centre at Madibira Primary School on April 9 2020. However, during an April visit to Busia, the parliamentary committee on COVID-19 recommended that as a quarantine centre, Madibira Primary School did not meet the minimum basic requirements. After a comprehensive assessment, the task force secured space at Dabani Girls Secondary School which is safer and has better facilities. The centre is a mandatory check-point for all persons crossing over into Uganda from Kenya (Kenya has registered a higher number of COVID-19 cases than Uganda). The district also set up an isolation centre at Masafu Hospital to handle those with COVID-19 signs and symptoms.
On May 6, Maureen travelled from Bugiri, a district neighbouring Busia in eastern Uganda. Her plan was to get back to her husband and family in Gulu in northern Uganda. The presidential directives on the ban on public and private cars at the end of March found Maureen stranded in Bugiri.
When she arrived in Busia, Maureen went to Busia Health Centre IV, with the intention of obtaining a pass permitting her to travel to Gulu. However, the medical personnel could not help her and advised her to seek permission from the RDC.
On May 18, Maureen’s visit to the RDC was futile. She was told that she could only travel to Gulu if she had a private vehicle to take her. Maureen could not find one. She asked where she could stay as she waited to deliver and she was advised to go to the quarantine centre. She was then taken to the quarantine centre, crushing her hopes of being reunited with her family.
Maureen felt hopeless. She was told she would have to stay in quarantine for the mandatory 14 days. Fortunately, she tested negative for COVID-19 at the centre.
“When I arrived at the quarantine centre, I was worried because I did not know what I was going to eat and how I would deliver. Fortunately, the caretakers of this place assured me of my safety,” says Maureen.
It is a fact that the presence of a trained healthcare worker, along with basic medicines, antiseptics and antibiotics, vital equipment and a clean environment, can save the lives of newborn babies and their mothers.
Maureen’s baby delivered
After 11 days in quarantine, on May 29, Maureen experienced the onset of labour.
At about 4:00am, Fred Wafula, an anaesthetist, received a call from the nurse, Christine Nakirya. Christine told Fred that there was a mother who was due for delivery and needed immediate help to have a safe delivery.
It was raining heavily.
Fred used one of the tricycles donated by World Vision through the AIM Health project to make his way to Maureen at the quarantine centre, struggling through the rain and muddy road. His plan was to transport Maureen to Masafu Hospital for delivery, but this would not be possible as she was in the second stage of labour – ready to give birth.
A registered midwife assisted Maureen and about an hour later, 5:00am, Maureen safely delivered a baby boy at the Dabani quarantine centre. Both mother and Baby Jason are well.
“Ensuring that mothers give birth to healthy babies safely remains a priority to us as an organisation and we will continue to support this cause for as long as we can,” said Edward Khaukha, the World Vision Eastern Uganda Regional Programmes Manager.
After delivery relief
World Vision supported Maureen and her baby with basic clothing and sanitation including a basin, soap and clothing for the baby, as well as a small donation of diapers.
“World Vision has been there for us during this pandemic and has offered a lot of support to the district as a whole, inclusive of the quarantine and isolation centres,” said Dr Ibrahim Dula, the Medical Superintendent at Masafu Hospital, who is also part of the Busia District COVID-19 Rapid Response Team.
World Vision, through the AIM Health Plus project, continues to ensure an effective referral system that is responsive to mothers’ needs and tackles the drivers of disparities contributing to preventable deaths within the district. World Vision also shares and uses compelling data to make the case for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in gaining critical support in advocating for better health outcomes at all levels.
“I want to thank World Vision very much for their generosity because I had nothing to start with, given that my family is in Gulu,” concludes a proud Maureen.