Saving Mothers, Giving Life: Tackling Maternal Mortality in Uganda

Posted on by Erik Friedly, Associate Director for Communication, CDC-Uganda


This is the first installment in a five-part series about efforts to save the lives of mothers in Africa through an initiative called Saving Mothers, Giving Life. Be sure to read the other four blog posts in this series.

Natukunda Joan and her daughter benefited from SGML (Photo: CDC Uganda)
Natukunda Joan and her daughter benefited from SGML (Photo: CDC Uganda)

It’s not easy being pregnant in Uganda. Nor is it always safe in a country that has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL) wants to change that.  

Erik Friedly, Associate Director for Communication, CDC-Uganda
Erik Friedly, Associate Director for Communication, CDC-Uganda

This novel initiative undertaken by Uganda’s Ministry of Health with ample support and guidance from CDC and other partners is showing promise and raising hopes that Uganda’s hard history with childbirth might be easing. 

The hope is rooted in a program whose name captures its essence – Saving Mothers, Giving Life. Unlike earlier efforts that focused primarily on clinical responses to a problem that is both stubborn and sad, SMGL takes a new, more comprehensive approach focusing on often overlooked but critical needs such as reliable and available ambulances, ensuring that clinics are sufficiently staffed with doctors and midwives, and that women are treated with respect and skill so they seek out care rather than avoid it. 

SMGL stresses accurate record keeping and surveillance too, working to modernize an old, haphazard approach with one that accurately records every birth, the death of every mother and or infant and the use of audits to ensure accuracy and compliance. 

The effort recognizes another critical reality: in much of Africa, a woman’s health decisions are not always her own. Male partners, extended families, and communities have traditionally played influential roles in the type, quality and amount of care a pregnant woman receives. Recognizing this reality, SMGL promotes community involvement and education. 

That’s the goal. Whether it succeeds depends on the determination of the people. What follows over the next three days are their stories; the human face of why policy makers in Uganda’s Ministry of Health and at CDC are hopeful, even optimistic that progress is possible. 

“When a mother bleeds to death, her nation bleeds, and all of these deaths are preventable.” – Lois Quam, former Executive Director of the U.S. Global Health Initiative 

Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL) is a U.S. Government initiative that addresses the needs of mothers in labor, delivery, and the first 24 hours postpartum – the time period in which an estimated 60 percent of maternal deaths and 50 percent of neonatal deaths occur.  This initiative was launched in Uganda and Zambia as a pilot project in 2011 under the auspices of the Global Health Initiative.  

SMGL draws upon the core strengths and specialized expertise of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. State Department.   This public-private partnership also involves Merck, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Every Mother Counts, the Government of Norway, and its newest partner, Project CURE.  Central to the partnership are the Governments of Uganda and Zambia. 

Posted on by Erik Friedly, Associate Director for Communication, CDC-UgandaTags , ,

2 comments on “Saving Mothers, Giving Life: Tackling Maternal Mortality in Uganda”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    It seems criminal that health care is not available to those in need but it is not. Certainly there is much abuse of resources here but care is available. The world is a place where many suffer and die because nothing is available for them. Here hospitals are available, clinics are open, labs and such can be accessed. The water here is safe to drink. Blood is available and medications are accessable by prescription. What would we do if we were in the situation the rest of the world has??? The good we do will come back to us.

    It was great reading CDC Global Voices especially this edition’s coverage on Dr. Frieden’s trip to Uganda and having such a great CDC presence there. As a former UN staff with UNCHS, worked in Uganda around mid-eighties. People then were dying, most thought of STDs and other diseases but unfolded a few years later internationally that people were dying of AIDS orphaning many infants and children. Now 30 years later we are still dealing with AIDS but the attention and resources it has drawn in East Africa and Uganda with the only PEPFAR program, this is truly a great CDC work and United States’ involvement should help to reap even more benefits in future. Thanks.

Comments are closed.

Post a Comment

Page last reviewed: May 11, 2021
Page last updated: May 11, 2021
Content source: