KAMPALA. The Ministry of Health has proposed to have children as young as 10 years old access family planning services as one of the means to reduce early pregnancies among adolescents.
Commonly known birth control methods include condoms, diaphragm, contraceptive pills, implants, IUDs (intrauterine devices), sterilisation and the morning after pill.
The ministry’s policy statement 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. Others are workplaces, recreational centres, electronic and media platforms and key social gatherings.
“There is need to focus efforts on delaying sex debut and increasing contraceptive use among sexually active adolescents. All adolescents are eligible for the health services. Increase age-appropriate information, access, and use of family planning among young people aged between 10 and 24 years,” reads in part the document titled ‘National Policy Guidelines and Service Standards for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.’
This fourth edition of the 2016 policy is a product of efforts of the Ministry of Health, development partners, civil society and implementing partners.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Ms Vivian Nakaliika, yesterday said the policy was launched some time back but is currently under review. However, she could not divulge the progress on the review.
She referred this newspaper to Dr Blandinah Nakiganda, the assistant commissioner for health services at the ministry. Ms Nakaliika promised to provide us with Dr Nakiganda’s contact today as she had already left office at the time of the interview.
According to the Ministry of Education standards, a child is expected to enrol for Primary One when they are six years old.
This means a 10-year-old, if they have not repeated a class, would be in Primary Five when they start family planning.
Fr Jonathan Opio of Human Life International and Mr Steven Langa of Family Life Network, in a joint statement, called upon parents to resist such family planning attempts which the duo claim are being advocated by donors.
“It is clear that unscrupulous people with support from powerful multi-lateral organisations have mooted an agenda of introducing and promoting comprehensive sex education in schools and institutions of learning. We reject and sternly oppose this ill-intentioned move,” the duo said.
The teachers, through their umbrella, the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu) have equally condemned the policy, insisting that moral values must be maintained among the young people and urged the government to protect the young generation from being “exploited by money minded Ugandans”.
“We need to ensure our own children get the right information, material, content and guidance from the right people. Government should not lose its way because somebody in the business community is trying to take advantage. We should not be misguided by donor funds and give away our own children,” Mr James Tweheyo, Unatu general secretary, said yesterday.
In the document, Dr Nakiganda acknowledges the contribution of Prof Anthony K. Mbonye, the Director General for Health Services for his leadership and direction and Dr Kaggwa, Commissioner for Community Services for steering the team to the end.
Other doctors acknowledged include Dr Aliganyira Patrick, Dr Mike Kagawa, Dr Charles Kiggundu, Dr Moses Muwonge, Dr Jane Nabakoza, Dr Olive Sentumbwe-Mugisa, Sarah Malalay Ahmadzai, Nakitto, Grace Ojirot, Prof John Chrysostom Lule and Ssensalire Rajab.
Dr Nakiganda says the policy is expected to guide the delivery of quality integrated sexual and reproductive health services and contribute to reduction of maternal and newborn morbidity, disability and mortality.
The policy further suggests to consolidate implementation of family planning policy, interventions and delivery of services in multiple sectors to ensure a holistic contribution to social and economic transformation.
The report notes that overall teenage birth rate or the proportion of birth per 1000 women aged 15-19 has decreased from 204 to 135 between 1995 and 2011 with 24 per cent giving birth to their first child before turning 19.
It highlights that the policy is to create an enabling legal and social-cultural environment that promotes provision of better health and information services for young people.
When contacted for a comment yesterday, Mr Patrick Muinda, the Ministry of Education spokesperson, said he would not make a response until he had read the document.
“We have not received any information in that regard,” he said.
Uganda, like the rest of the world, has committed to the post Millennium Development Goals agenda to embrace a new strategy of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is through this that the ministry of Health is pushing for sexual and reproductive health and rights and empowerment of girls and women as ‘central to sustainable development and creating a world that is just, equitable, and inclusive”.
“Uganda ranks among the top 10 countries with high maternal, newborn and child mortality rates despite attempts in improving health of children, adolescents, women and men in the country. Only 20.4per cent of Ugandan women use a modern method, the unmet need for family planning stands at 34per cent and contraceptive prevalence at 30 per cent while teenage pregnancy is high at 24per cent resulting in unsafe abortions that account for an estimated 28 per cent of maternal deaths annually,” the ministry’s policy document says.
Last year, Saturday Monitor revealed that 100 schools had been introduced into teaching disguised homosexuality through an unauthorised curriculum dubbed: “The World Starts With Me.’
The curriculum was introduced through a computer-based comprehensive sexuality education curriculum which was developed in 2003 by Butterfly Works and World Population Foundation (WPF), in close collaboration with SchoolNet Uganda, young people, teachers and artists in Uganda.
The curriculum targeted secondary school students and their teachers. For instance, it portrayed homosexuality and masturbation as fulfilling sexual habits among people who have consented and one way of controlling unwanted teenage pregnancies and early marriages.
“People can also feel attracted to the same sex or both sexes. If this lasts a long time, they might be homosexuals. People are homosexual not by choice but by birth. However, if a boy forces a boy to have sex with him or a girl forces a girl to have sex with her, this is not homosexual but sexual abuse,” the curriculum read in part.
The document was later disowned by the ministry of Education and the National Curriculum Development Centre. The subject also attracted criticism from President Museveni who discouraged the teaching of sex education in schools.
Reacting to the findings, Fr Silvester Arinaitwe, UJCC Executive Secretary, condemned the material saying it will destroy Christian values on whose foundation the country is built - For God and My Country. He explained that they had a list of schools which have been participating and are planning to take the matter further to establish what impact it has caused on graduates from these institutions.
“We have come to know that SchoolNet is implementing this curriculum. We are very disturbed about the content, which we have seen. We condemn it. It is very dangerous for our children. Some of these NGOs come here disguising that they are going to support us in education when they have a hidden dangerous agenda. We are going to do more research and we shall act. We can’t accept this to go on in our schools,” Fr Arinaitwe charged.