The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), has rejected Ministry of Health’s draft proposal to have children as young as 10-years-old access family planning services as one of the means to reduce early pregnancies among adolescents.
Mr Charles Draecabo, Unesco’s national professional officer for HIV/Aids, said contraception is a choice that must be taken by a responsible person, not 10-year-olds.
“Contraception is a choice that must be taken by an individual who is responsible. A child below 18 [years] is not responsible enough to take an independent decision,” Mr Draecabo said.
He made the remarks at Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU)’s pass out of 50 Senior Six and university students who completed a one-month training on reproductive, sexuality and health rights training in Kampala on Friday.
Family planning methods, commonly known as birth control methods, include condoms, diaphragm, contraceptive pills, implants, IUDs (intrauterine devices), sterilisation and the morning after pill.
The ministry’s draft policy leaked by the Daily Monitor this week requires all health facilities to provide quality services to all adolescents, irrespective of age, sex, ability to pay, marital status, school status, education level, location or ethnic origin.
Some of the target beneficiaries to the family planning services include universities, schools, religious centres, youth clubs in schools and Local Council/ Youth Council meeting places.
Dr Anthony Mbonye, Ministry of Health’s acting director general of health services, in a Thursday statement, said the guidelines were being reviewed and updated by the ministry and partners to address changes in facts, statistics and practices, before a revised document can be endorsed for implementation.
According to Ministry of Health’s document titled ‘National policy guidelines and service standards for sexual, and reproductive health and rights, there is need to focus efforts on delaying sex debut and increasing contraceptive use among sexually active adolescents.
In ensuring that all adolescents are eligible for the health services, in its draft policy, the ministry seeks to increase age-appropriate information, access, and use of family planning among young people aged between 10 and 24 years. However, key stakeholders such as the ministry of Education, religious leaders, parents and educationists, have since disowned the policy as a step in the wrong direction.
Meanwhile, Mr Humphrey Nabimanya, RAHU’s team leader and Mr Draecabo challenged the government and stakeholders to preach against HIV/Aids. They cited recent statistics from Uganda Aids Commission indicating that more than 500 girls in Uganda get HIV every week.