News / Africa

Family Planning Faces Hurdles in Uganda

Women wait for family planning counseling outside a health clinic in Kanungu District, western Uganda, June 19, 2012. (VOA / Hilary Heuler)
Women wait for family planning counseling outside a health clinic in Kanungu District, western Uganda, June 19, 2012. (VOA / Hilary Heuler)
KANUNGU, Uganda — As world leaders prepare for this month’s Global Family Planning Summit in London, many developing countries are struggling to control their population growth. Local authorities say they are trying to bring down the birth rate for the sake of the country’s future.

Hight birth rate

Last year, Editha Tumwebaze became pregnant with her ninth child. In her village in the western part of Uganda, a country with the world’s second highest birth rate, her case is not unusual. The average Ugandan woman will give birth to about seven children during her lifetime.

But during the difficult delivery, Tumwebaze developed an obstetric fistula, a tear in the birth passage that has caused her to leak urine ever since.

She says that now she rarely leaves home because of her condition. Tumwebaze says her husband Wilson cannot look for work because he has to take care of her and the new baby.

Women's health

Wilson says women who have many children often develop medical problems.  If they had had access to family planning services, he says, they would not have had so many children.

This is something the Ugandan Ministry of Health and the United Nations Population Fund are working to change.

In the town of Kanungu, hundreds of women and a scattering of men gathered around a health clinic to learn about family planning methods. These “camps” are held several times a year.  And according to local doctor Seth Tibenda, they have been a resounding success.

“In April, we were overwhelmed," said Tibenda. "Very many people were turned back after the four-day camp, and we thought we would come back here and finish up those. Now those who are taking methods for controlling birth are many.”

Authorities in Kanungu say that because of this family planning drive, the size of families in the district has declined during the past decade. At about six children per woman, the birth rate is below the national average.

Family planning

On July 11, World Population Day, a global summit will be held in London to help raise awareness and money for family planning around the world.

Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, says high birth rates can take a serious toll on a country’s development and the lives of women.

“They have children that they cannot look after as well as they’d like to," said Osotimehin. "And in a good number of them [i.e., countries], they start having children early in life, so they are not as educated and as skilled as they probably would like to be. You would have intergenerational poverty in those kinds of circumstances. And that, of course, tells of the country itself, because the country would then have to provide infrastructure to sustain that population.”

Population growth

Uganda’s population is growing at more than 3 percent a year. The Ugandan government predicts that the population will likely triple by 2050 - from 34 million to more than 100 million people. The country’s public services are already struggling to keep up, says Jennifer Wanyana of the Ministry of Health.

“When you compare the population growth rate with the number of facilities that have been constructed, they are not proportional to the rate of growth," said Wanyana. "As for the health workers, the number of patients they have to attend to has grown. The supplies are not really as sufficient as they used to be.”

Access to family planning is not the only problem, says Wanyana, who adds that many Ugandans oppose contraception for cultural reasons or they associate family planning with promiscuity.  

Experts say that beliefs like this might be the most difficult challenge.

Niwagaba's story

Savio Niwagaba holds his newborn baby as his wife Chrisente, behind him, has a contraceptive implant inserted in her arm, Kanungu, Uganda, June 19, 2012. (VOA / Hilary Heuler)Savio Niwagaba holds his newborn baby as his wife Chrisente, behind him, has a contraceptive implant inserted in her arm, Kanungu, Uganda, June 19, 2012. (VOA / Hilary Heuler)
x
Savio Niwagaba holds his newborn baby as his wife Chrisente, behind him, has a contraceptive implant inserted in her arm, Kanungu, Uganda, June 19, 2012. (VOA / Hilary Heuler)
Savio Niwagaba holds his newborn baby as his wife Chrisente, behind him, has a contraceptive implant inserted in her arm, Kanungu, Uganda, June 19, 2012. (VOA / Hilary Heuler)
Savio Niwagaba and his wife Chrisente were among those waiting for family planning counseling outside a Kanungu clinic last month. Chrisente says she was happy with the four children the couple already had, but that Niwagaba wanted to have more.

Niwagaba says his father died before he could have more than three children, and that neighbors looked down on his family as being small and weak. He says that even if he cannot afford to educate his children, a big family is a strong family. Niwagaba adds that if Chrisente does not agree to have more children, he will leave her and marry another woman.

After counseling, Niwagaba eventually agreed to allow Chrisente to receive a three-year contraceptive implant inserted under the skin of her arm - a procedure that took only five minutes.

Niwagaba might still find another wife, but Chrisente says she is prepared to take that risk. With or without her husband’s help, Chrisente says she is determined to have only as many children as she can support.

Local authorities say they hope more Ugandan women will be able to make the same decision.

You May Like

Photogallery Ukraine: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Lydia Tuhaise from: Uganda
July 11, 2012 12:05 PM
I would like to add to the reasons many Ugandan families. In addition to being a pride in having many children, especially to men and in the rural areas, many times, a woman may be 'forced to bear more and more children to have a baby boy in the family. In the African culture, it is the boys who can 'reproduce' to expand the clan. Men are usually interested in an heir (who should be a boy) and many boys to expand their lineage. Even in the urban areas, women who give birth to girls first tend to go up to five or even seven children hoping to get a baby boy,

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid