The government has been called on to embark an inclusive health care system to help reduce the number of unsafe abortions among mostly young Ugandans.
By Jeff Andrew Lule
KAMPALA - The government has been called on to embark an inclusive health care system to help reduce the number of unsafe abortions among mostly young Ugandans.
In fact, youths and the civil society are demanding for a law to legalize abortion for cases that are extreme and unavoidable.
During a an Inter-Generational Dialogue (IGD) in Kampala recently, students and other youths that attended the meet argued that many pregnancies are as a result of inevitable circumstances like defilement and rape.
Panelists during the dialogue. PHOTO/Abou Kisige
The inclusive health system that is being lobbied for suggests that youths be involved in promoting health Youth Friendly Services (YFS).
Many young people in Uganda die from unsafe abortion procedures and many proponents of the legalization of abortion for special cases fear that many more will continue to lose their lives in the absence of, for example, legal interventions.
Phiona Mbabazi, a student of Community Psychology at Makerere University said young people are not given the attention they deserve in health facilities.
“The problem is that when we young people visit health facilities to get help, we are not given due attention to explain our problems by the adults. They shout at you, judge you and regard you as an outcast,” she said.
The dialogue attracted many groups of young people, including students. PHOTO/Abou Kisige
Speaking during the IGD held at the National Water and Sewerage Corporation International Resource Centre in Bugolobi, Mbabazi spoke of how young people resort to risk channels of abortion as a result of being ignored in mainstream health establishments.
And the student of Psychology underlined the some misconceptions around early pregnancies.
“Not all pregnancies are due to misbehaving like many adults think. Many of these girls always have stories that must be heard than judging them.”
‘No need for abortion unless recommended’
The dialogue, suggested as the first of its kind in Uganda, was organized by Reach a Hand Uganda and ran under the theme: “Role of adults, policymakers and community leaders in promoting comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly SRHR services”.
Its main sponsors included SEGAL Family Foundation, Rutgers WPF, MTV Staying Alive, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Sexual Reproductive Heath Rights (SRHR) Alliance.
A number of speakers blamed “unfriendly” services in government facilities for the problem of unsafe abortions.
Jackson Chekweko, the executive director of Reproductive Health Uganda said there is no need for abortion, adding that government only needs to re-orient its health service providers to learn how to handle young people.
“Some of these people don’t have counseling skills. How do you expect them to handle young people?
“There is no need for abortion unless when it is recommended by the doctors. The family planning methods are available and those who are active should be smart. I urge youth to avoid unprotected sex unless when you are ready for the outcomes.”
Besides, Chekweko suggested, parents too must always be available to provide guidance to their children.
‘Peers should handle peers’
Development partners with the executive director of Reach a Hand Humphrey Nabimanya. PHOTO/Abou Kisige
Achen Monica, Makerere College School’s head girl (prefect) and also a RAH peer educator said many youths feel stigmatized when they visit health facilities for assistance because adults always regard them as outcasts.
“We need youth-friendly services to protect lives of young people whose situations are extreme,” she advised.
On her part Nargis Shiraz, co-founder of ‘It Takes Two Campaign’, said government should promote peer-to-peer education at health centers. “Peers can easily handle fellow peers once trained.”
A youth pastor who also attended the dialogue suggested the need to support troubled youths.
“As Christians we don’t believe in legalization of abortion but we need solutions to protect lives of those whose situations are extreme,” said Rev Richard Rukundo. He talked of the need to break the silence and give hope to victims.
A number of renowned local musicians attended the dialogue as well, and some shared their thoughts on the issue at hand.
A number of local musicians attended the dialogue as well. PHOTO/Abou Kisige
Joanitah Kawalya, who is a singer, counselor and teacher, said there is need to change the attitude of adult medical practitioners towards young people.
On his part, Ugandan rapper GNL Zamba said the youth need to be sensitized to make informed choices. “We need special sections to handle youth issues at health facilities for easy access.”
Abortion legalization still under debate
Charles Dracebo, the program officer HIV and AIDS UNESCO, said government needs to include the component of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in the secondary school syllabus.
Humphrey Nabimanya with musician Silver Kyagulanyi and the Executive Director of Reproductive Health Uganda and Chairperson of Family Planning Consortium Jackson Chekweko. PHOTO/Abou Kisige
Dr. Collins Tusingwire, the commissioner for reproductive health in the ministry of health, said the issue of legalization of abortion is still under debate, but was quick to note that the ministry is doing everything possible to make sure contraceptives and other commodities are available at all levels to avoid shortages.
“We have reviewed the adolescent policy and developed good packages to provide youth-friendly services at our referrals country wide,” he told the participants, and later adding that young people should always seek early medication to avoid complications.
It is understood that the ministry has also trained some health workers to handle youths. According to statistics, about 21% maternal deaths are caused by unsafe abortions in Uganda.
Some of the members performing a skit on the Abstinance, Be faithful and Use a condom (ABC) strategy. PHOTO/Abou Kisige
Humphrey Nabimanya, the executive director RAHU, said they intend to petition parliament and the health ministry to address issues raised during the dialogue.
RAH patron, Silver Kyagulanyi (also musician), said the event, which was attended by mostly students, peer educators, health workers and CSOs, is to be held annually.
The event spiced up by performances from local artistes including; GNL Zamba, Maurice Hassa, Silver Kyagulanyi, Jody Phibi (from Rwanda), Ray Signature and Big Trill.
Local artistes performed a music project. PHOTO/Abou Kisige
Calls for youth-friendly services in health facilities