The Uganda Reproductive Maternal and Child Health Service Improvement Project (URMCHSIP) is implemented by the Ministry of Health and seeks to improve utilization of essential health services with a focus on reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services and scale-up birth and death registration services.
In order to ensure better maternal and adolescent health, family planning services are key.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines Family Planning as a voluntary and informed decision by an individual or couple on the number of children to have and when to have them.
Among others, family planning methods include; the safe use of female and male condoms, Intra Uterine Devices (IUD), pills, implants, and emergency contraceptives.
The Ministry of Health is working with Marie Stopes Uganda to promote Family Planning services.
The Head of Communication and Policy at Marie Stopes Uganda, Mrs Faith Kyateka said that they work with a consortium of partners including Reach a hand Uganda, Makerere university School of Public Health, FHI 360 and Population Media Centre (PMC).
“We also collaborate with a number of other partners under the Uganda Family Planning consortium. Our largest FP program is funded by DFID Uganda under the RISE program/ consortium,” she added.
All sexually active individuals can access information and services on Family Planning from Marie Stopes resource centres and other platforms. However, schools are exempted.
“We don’t go to schools because the policy does not facilitate provision of Family Planning within such settings. We do believe, however, that students in higher learning institutes can benefit from these services,” she elaborated.
Marie Stopes-Uganda Framework
Family planning services are provided through various service delivery channels such as community outreaches. There are 32 mobile outreach teams across Uganda.
These teams are set up at public sector health facilities, mainly HC IIIs and HC IVs and provide free Family Planning and cervical cancer screening services to the rural, poor and hard-to-reach areas.
There are 15 centres across Uganda and these provide primary health care as well as Family Planning services. Mostly, these are located in the municipalities and towns, targeting urban populations.
These are located in Namuwongo, Kavule, Bweyogerere, Masaka, Mbarara, Hoima, Kabale, Fortportal, Mbale, Tororo, Jinja, Soroti, Arua, Gulu and Lira.
Marie Stopes provides other services including Public Health Strengthening; where health workers especially in rural areas, are mentored and trained at public health facilities to promote Family Planning within the localities.
“We promote family planning uptake through sensitization drives which we do with mega phones and Village health teams, we also conduct radio talk shows. These are aimed at raising awareness on family planning and also informing the public about our next outreaches,” Kyateka said.
She also said that there’s a channel; ‘Marie Stopes ladies’ who provide Family Planning services through door to door delivery of services.
In the most affected districts, Marie Stopes engages with district leaders as these have a strong influence towards the use of contraceptives.
“Nonetheless, parents are sensitized to allow their sexually active teenagers to access contraceptives,” she said.
Hindrances in administering Family Planning services
Kyateka said that due to the countless myths and misconceptions on Family Planning, people are being limited from taking up Family Planning at community level.
This is true as per a simple local survey which indicated that among the women living around Kawempe division, the highest percentage is negative about family planning services.
Mary Najjuma, 38, a resident of Kawempe and a mother of 5 children said, “I was told that I might get complications and even become barren, by my mother-in-law, if I ever used family planning.”
Grace Kyamagero, 26, confessed that she is afraid of using contraceptives because she thinks that they cause cancer.
Due to the closure of schools, teenage pregnancies have been on the rise. It should be noted that the most affected region is the Eastern region with districts such as Kaliro, Luuka, Kamuli and Iganga.
The emergence of COVID-19 and its impacts has tremendously affected the lives of Ugandans. Current data shows an increase in the population due to increased pregnancies especially during the lockdown.
However, Marie Stopes is continuing to provide Sexual Reproductive Health services while following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) like social distancing and hand washing among others.