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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid