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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid