Uganda Maternal Health Program Scales Up

credit: World Bank
Photo: Dominic Chavez / World Bank

A highly successful pilot program to improve maternal health care for poor women is scaling up under a recent grant agreement signed by the World Bank Group -- acting as an administrator for the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA) -- and the government of Uganda.

With $13.3 million in new funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the expanded program relies on innovative, results-based financing that provides vouchers for safe maternal and reproductive health care.  The vouchers help women pay the cost of professional health care service, and then service providers are reimbursed after the service is delivered. The program builds on a highly successful $4.3 million pilot launched in 2007, and the reproductive health voucher program exceeded its targets, assisting in the safe delivery of 65,590 babies and providing reproductive health care services to more than 136,000 people in rural communities in western Uganda.

 Under the recently signed agreement, the five-year program will be part of the government’s national development and health plans and will provide 132,400 poor women with a “Safe Delivery” health care voucher that entitles them to an assisted delivery, pre and post-delivery care by certified, skilled medical professionals, and treatment and management of selected pregnancy-related medical conditions and complicated deliveries, including emergency transport.   The agreement also supports project management functions and builds national capacity to mainstream and scale up the safe delivery voucher scheme in the health sector.

While Uganda is on track to achieve many of the UN’s Millennium Development targets – such as halving poverty, improving gender equality, and empowering women – the country lags behind on maternal mortality.  Peri-natal and maternal mortality make up 20.4 percent of the disease burden in Uganda, and the government has established a health sector strategic plan to reverse poor maternal health outcomes.