Simon Richard Mugenyi writes from the first Uganda national conference on family planning
The first Uganda national conference on family planning co-hosted by the Ministry of Health in partnership with UNFPA was a success; it’s been an exciting, joyful and hopeful three days!
Themed ‘Accelerating Social and Economic Transformation through Universal Access to Voluntary Family Planning,’ the three day conference brought together government ministries, members of parliament, partners and various organisations to create a platform for dialogue among stakeholders for national development to share and disseminate research findings, best practices and new knowledge on family planning to reposition family planning in Uganda as a tool for planning and national development.
President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni called for a holistic approach to development and stressed the need to focus on quality population and not population control as he addressed those in attendance. He stated that family planning is good for the health of mothers, children, families and the country as a whole.
Describing the conference as turning point which should harness the demographic dividends, UNFPA Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, urged those in authority to provide education for girl’s protection and give them space to grow and ensure that they are equal to boys.
Several commitments were made during the conference. Parliament agreed to push and advocate for ring-fencing of the health finances in the budget, specifically family planning; advocate and commit to advocate for recruitment and retention of health workers as service providers in health centres.
They will offer leadership in advocacy and mainstreaming family planning to create effective demand for family planning in their constituencies and districts. In addition they also plan to move to various health centres and hospitals to ensure that family planning services, consumables are available in time and in the quantities needed. Local governments have pledged to support Ugandans improve the quality of their lives by demonstration how family planning can improve their welfare.
Uganda Muslim Supreme Council arecommitted to working with the ministry of health and supporting organisation to put family planning messages into the Islamic perspective so that their audiences know them better. They have also promised to see that girls and boys are educated equally.
Advance Family Planning sponsored (AFP) district health officers pledged to provide leadership in their various districts to mobilise all the stakeholders and set aside resources for family planning.
The youth also had their say, Nicholas Nanenya, medical student at Makerere University acknowledged that, ‘it is actually a greater risk not to use family planning and owing to that we as the youth promise to work hand in hand with the ministry of health and partner organisations to see that policies and all commitments made about family planning are put into action.’’
Representative of the Civil Society Organisation, executive director Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU), Jackson Chekweko, affirmed their continued commitment in delivering family planning services and the advocacy efforts towards the realisation of their target of reaching the contraceptive prevalence rate of 50% as a national level. Jackson said ‘we will continue to implement government efforts in the application of family planning programmes to reach the hard to reach, the vulnerable, the most at risk and continue to be pathfinders and disseminate these innovations so they can be adopted and scaled up across the nation.’
He called on the government to set a national campaign for family planning and dedicate a week to take family planning to all corners of Uganda.
Resident district commissioners (RDCs) who are overseers and responsible for monitoring government programmes at the district level said family planning is a responsibility of everybody. We will ensure that family planning is given priority in the community for social economic transformation in this country.
Recommendations that were made include;
- Adopt good practices and innovations that have featured in this conference into the National Costed Implementation Plan
- Scale-up family planning service delivery using community health workers, as observed that one of the high impacts is using community health workers- equipping, training them and supervising them for FP
- Take note of the demographic dividend research findings in order to achieve the Vision2040 targets
- Involve cultural and religious leaders in scaling up family planning especially targeting the youth
- Rigorous methods to assess contribution of health communication to social behaviour change should be effected by all key players
- National family planning conference should be an annual event in order to take stock of the progress towards commitments and pledges made
I am hopeful, Uganda is moving forward and we have a great task before us to ensure that commitments made become a reality.