Monday June 2 2014

Access to family planning is a basic human right and economically essential

By Joseph Waninda

In developing countries, more than 220 million women report a desire to prevent or delay childbirth but, for various reasons, are not using modern contraceptives.

In Uganda, contraceptive use is still low at only 24 per cent; there is a high un met need of 41 per cent, meaning one in four women don’t want to get pregnant but lack access to family planning services and information, and nearly half of the poorest women say their most recent pregnancy was unplanned.

There still exists grossly underserved populations with no access to information and modern family planning services, particularly long acting and permanent methods. This is particularly true in the north and north eastern regions, whose reproductive health indicators are above national averages.

This has subsequently led to a high total fertility rate of 6.7 children per woman.

This calls for a need to offer women more information about the benefits of family planning and access to a range of contraceptive options.
In July 2012, global leaders at the London Summit on Family Planning, pledged to provide 120 million more women in the world’s poorest countries with voluntary access to contraceptives by 2020.

President Museveni pledged, on behalf of the government of Uganda, to ensure an enabling policy environment to allow Ugandan women to exercise their family planning choices by; increasing the financial investment into family planning; strengthening the service delivery; and sensitising particularly peasant women about child spacing for the good health of the babies and the mothers.

Specifically he committed himself to: increase the government allocation for family planning supplies from $3.3 million( Shs8.25b) per year to $5 million(Shs12.5b) per year for the next 5 years, mobilise an additional $5 million from donors and prevent stock out of family planning supplies by; strengthening the National Medical Stores to improve distribution of reproductive health supplies/commodities to public and private health delivery units.

Over the past years, we have made tremendous progress in ensuring that women have better access to family planning services.
The national budget for family planning services has also increased tremendously over the years; changed guidelines to allow community health workers to provide injectable; and increased access to family planning services.

However, we should not just be concerned with expanding access; we should also be aiming at expanding the range of contraceptive options available to women so they can choose the methods they prefer.
A number of innovative public-private partnerships have helped bring us one step closer to achieving this goal.

Reproductive Health Uganda and Marie Stopes Uganda for instance, are currently using an outreach model to increase availability of long acting and permanent methods of contraception by offering comprehensive long acting and permanent methods through comprehensive family planning camps/outreaches to inaccessible and undeserved areas of Uganda.

Together, these partnerships are helping to make contraceptive options particularly long term methods more accessible and affordable for women in Uganda. However, we are not yet there. There is need to mobilise more women to access family planning services and ensuring there is no stock out of commodities.

There is also need to involve men in this whole family planning agenda as well as increase advocacy for innovative initiatives that increase access to family planning services to rural and vulnerable groups.
Mr Waninda is a health communication
practitioner. @jwaninda