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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    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,

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.