We need to open up on the conversations around access to age appropriate and culturally sensitive reproductive health information and services.
OPINION | FAMILY PLANNING
By Humphrey Nabimanya
This week, family planning enthusiasts and stakeholders in Uganda will be convening for the two day 2nd Uganda National Family Planning Conference in Kampala.
I am eagerly looking forward to the conference for two main reasons. One is because it's a big step forward for Uganda which renewed her commitment to increase family planning for all during the Family Planning Summit in London, UK, to discuss the 2020 agenda that attracted over 36 countries.
From the Summit, Uganda committed to leverage annually $US20 million from its development partners, the domestic and international private sectors including philanthropies to bridge the funding gap for executing its Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan and also allocate $US5 million annually for procurement and distribution of Reproductive Health/Family Planning supplies and commodities to the last mile among others.
Even before that, H.E President Yoweri Museveni has made strong commitments to family planning in Uganda for example at the London Summit on Family Planning in July 2012 and again at the first ever Uganda National Family Planning Conference in July 2014.
This year's Uganda National Family Planning Conference is a follow up on all the above, presents now with an opportunity to take advantage and maximise the benefits of these political commitment to implement robust family planning programmes to reach women, men, youth, and communities with voluntary high-quality services and information to meet their needs as the Uganda Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan, 2015-2020 notes.
Secondly and most importantly, is the theme for this year's conference which is Universal access to family planning for healthier and empowered communities towards social and economic development.
This theme just confirms that before we talk about transforming the Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years through Vision 2040, we have to ensure that we have a society which is healthy and empowered.
As our colleagues at the United Nations Populations Fund rightly put it, we need to harness the demographic dividend by prioritizing human capital development, including empowering women and girls to be able to exercise their rights, and expanding quality health and education systems, is key to harnessing the demographic dividend.
Therefore, the magnitude of the demographic dividend for a country like Uganda can be enhanced if the change in the age structure is accompanied by sustained investments and improvements in education, skills development, public health, economic growth and job creation, and governance.
And this starts with investments in family planning. According to the 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey, 28 percent of currently married women have an unmet need for family planning services, while 39 percent of married women are currently using a contraceptive method.
The above therefore according to the survey, means that nearly seven in ten currently married women in Uganda (67 percent) have a demand for family planning. At present, 58 percent of the total demand for family planning is being met, almost entirely by modern methods (52 percent of total demand).
To put the above to practice means that if all married women who said they want to space or limit their children were to use family planning methods, the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) would increase from the current level of 39 percent to 67 percent.
Thus, we need to open up on the conversations around access to age appropriate and culturally sensitive reproductive health information and services. By now, we need to plan for how, when, and where different groups of people use or don't use contraception, learn the reasons why they should or shouldn't use contraception and understand that they may get modern contraception from a variety of sources if they don't have the right information.
The writer is the team leader and founder of Reach A Hand, Uganda