Commentary

Invest in young people for an educated, healthy population

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By Irene Mirembe

Posted  Monday, July 14  2014 at  01:00
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Uganda joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Population Day on July 12, an event that annually seeks to raise awareness of the global population issues.

According to studies, Uganda’s population is at 35 million and it continues to rise steadily with the never changing natural resources. Our fertility rate is one of the highest in the world at 6.2, meaning an average Ugandan woman produces an average of six to seven children. Let’s not forget, that every day, many women and girls continue to suffer or die from pregnancy related complications.
I am highlighting the above because health is the entry point to achieving the right future, though the government and its partners especially the donor community and private health sector are delivering health services and media creating awareness, more needs to be done.

This year’s theme ‘Invest in young people today to ensure a right future for Uganda’ is a theme so relevant to today’s Uganda if we are to realise a healthy population.

We should further focus on women and girls because through empowering them, you can be sure of a strong family and thus a strong community and an ideal breeding ground for a future healthy population.

It is also equally important to reinforce positive male norms such as male involvement in reproductive health issues right from households. Studies show that households are the primary producers of health and in these households, men hold the decision making power from how to spend money to how many children a couple should have. Therefore, reinforcing the important role of men and influence they have in their households and using it to bring them on board to participate and support their partners in reproductive health is key.

Imagine the transformation if only men are committed to discussing family planning related issues with their partners, this would result into realisation of happy families with manageable children, thus a healthy population in the long-term.

Empowering women and girls encourages them to build their self-confidence, knowledge and support each other, the eventual health impact is that they will stay longer in school, lessen their chances to early marriages, HIV/Aids, have healthy planned pregnancies thus healthy children. If this desired behaviour is maintained from generation to generation then our future will be secured.

In order to achieve the right future for Uganda, we must continue to invest in young people with further focus on men and boys for it is a fact that they are key stakeholders and hugely impact health outcomes in households and communities. This is where change in attitude is desired if we are to achieve this vision.

Men in households need to appreciate and support their partners in health related issues. The belief that reproductive health is a responsibility of women only should be replaced with the positive belief that men have a huge role in women’s health. This positive male norm should be encouraged because with little male involvement little will be achieved.

So to reinforce positive behaviour, there is need for continued support especially from the government and communities to mobilise young people both men and women to realise collective response to population issues. The private sector especially the health private sector should continue to ensure the availability and accessibility of quality health services, friendly family planning services and maternal health services where young people can receive resourceful information and services.
Only through provision of quality and affordable maternal and family planning services will Uganda achieve a healthy, vibrant and manageable population thus giving chance to greater economic transformation.

With such services available and the population knowledgeable and empowered to access them, this vision is assured for generations to come.
Ms Mirembe is a communications coordinator at PACE.imirembe@pace.org.ug