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.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, to gets travel pass to Gulu.The medical personnel 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 her baby 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 my baby. Fortunately, the caretakers of this place assured me of my safety,” says Maureen.
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.