Phionah Kansiime, 26, a resident of Nyangorogoro village in Rubirizi District got pregnant in January 2019. When she checked into Kampala International University teaching Hospital in Bushenyi, she was told she was carrying quadruplets.
During the last month of her last trimester, Kansiime was advised by health workers to stay at the hospital to have her pregnancy monitored from time to time.
This prompted her husband to search for other jobs to support his expectant wife and family. In July 2019, Kansiime delivered three children. A week later, she delivered her fourth baby, who unfortunately passed on.
Kansiime rang her husband and announced the good news.
“He promised to send us some money and said he would be travelling home soon to see the babies. But after that phone call, his phone went off for a month,” says Kansiime.
She spent a month at the hospital after delivery and when she called her husband’s phone, she could not believe her ears. “After failed call attempts, I managed to get through to him. He told me he had travelled to South Sudan. He also said he could not afford taking care of us. Those were the last words I heard from him and his phone has been completely off," she narrates.
Kansiime is singlehandedly taking care of her triplets and her other two children. She is depending on her parents-in-law for financial support, although sometimes, it is not sufficient enough to support the the growing needs of breastfeeding and raising triplets.
Kansiime currently stays at the LCI Chairman Nyangorogoro’s residence, who has offered to give her children some milk everyday to support their feeding needs.
Kansiime’s story is not an isolated one. Many women are abandoned by their partners after producing twins, triplets or quadruplets.
In the early 1990s, fathers of twins enjoyed a fair share of respect from society. In fact, they were exempted from communal work and paying graduated tax because of the responsibility that came with raising twins. Men were proud of the tittle ‘Salongo’.
Emmanuel Asiimwe, a family counsellor in Mbarara, says traditionally, some men appreciate children when they are adults but do not like the burden of raising them.
‘’Some men want children but they do not care about their upbringing. That is why when a child falls sick at night, a man will shamelessly enjoy his sleep while his wife spends a sleepless night caring for the sick child," says Asiimwe.
He says people living below the poverty line get financially overwhelmed with they get the news of a wife producing more than two children at once and they decide to abandon the family.
However, Mable Turyagyenda, a family counsellor, says men who abandon their wives in such circumstance are cowards, adding that they fear facing responsibility.
‘’Most men fear responsibility and some men learn such behaviour from their family line."
Evelyne Kyomugisha, the Mifumi area coordinator-an NGO that fights gender based violence, says some men use women yet they harbour no intentions of settling down.
‘’Some men engage in extramarital affairs and the moment a man gets interested in another woman, they tend to abandon their families. But when children come into the picture, he runs away because his motive was to get social pleasure,’’ says Kyomugisha.
Kyomugisha adds that some men are driven away by domestic quarrels which they do not report, which in the long run affect men psychologically. “When a man is financially constrained and he is welcomed by endless demands at home, he may may decide to opt out,’’ she adds.
Kyomugisha says in 2019, 179 cases of men who abandoned their families were recorded in Ankole sub region.
Rwizi region police spokesperson Samson Kasasira blames the trend of men neglecting their families to domestic violence and getting married at a young age, which has resulted into child neglect .
"In Rwizi region, since the year began, we have had 278 domestic violence cases, which have caused 11 cases of child neglect and 23 children have been deserted. People get married when they are not ready. Growing old does not necessarily mean that one is ready for marriage,’’ Kasasira explains.
Emmanuel Asiimwe, a family counsellor says parents have a mandate to care for their children in what he calls the six roles of parenthood.
“Parents should care for a child, ensure that the child gets education either formal or informal, ensure spiritual upbringing, protect and teach the child about their culture and traditions,’’ says Asiimwe.
Kyomugisha contends that some people enter into relationships without proper planning and expecting children which she says should change. ‘If you do not intend to have children, use the available methods to avoid pregnancy,” she says.
She says it is a crime for a man to run away from his responsibility. “Once a child has been born, it is the responsibility of all parents to take care of the child despite the conditions. We advise men not to run away because child neglect is punishable by law,’’ she adds.
She advises parents to have a discussion on the number of children they want as a family in order to effectively plan for them.
Dr Sezalio Masembe of Neocare Clinic and Fertility Centre in Mbarara, says women aged 35 and above are more likely to produce more than one child because they tend to have multiple ovulation.
He says assisted reproductive technologies and history of twins in a family are some of the factors that may influence multiple children.
Two babies in a single pregnancy are called high order pregnancy (Triplets, Quadruplets Quintuplets).