Ugandans Protest High Rate of Deaths in Childbirth

July 7, 2011 - 7:39 AM

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) - Hundreds of women marched Thursday in Uganda's capital to protest the East African nation's high rate of maternal mortality and a delayed lawsuit stemming from two such deaths.

Some 435 out of 100,000 Ugandan women die in childbirth, according to the country's health ministry. By comparison only 24 women die for every 100,000 live births in the U.S. and other rich, industrialized countries, the U.N. says.

Families of two women who died in childbirth have sued, saying the expectant mothers were left unattended at hospitals after they failed to pay large enough bribes. Government hospitals are supposed to provide free care.

On Thursday, a Ugandan court canceled a scheduled hearing in the case, saying there were not enough judges present. It was the second such delay since the suit was filed in March.

"This case is a priority and we urge the constitutional court and government to take it seriously," activist Marion Natukunda said. "We are disappointed that the hearing did not start today."

The husband of one of the women who died, Valente Inziku, said nurses refused to treat his wife Jennifer Anguko even after he gave them the 10,000 shillings (about $4) they asked for while she was in labor.

In an affidavit, he says that nurses ignored her cries of pain for more than eight hours before she died late last year. The baby also died.