By David Mwanje

UNFPA Uganda Country Office and the Government of Uganda committed to work together to ensure sustainable financing for Reproductive Health commodities for women and girls in Uganda.

The programme that delivers a choice of modern contraceptives and life-saving maternal health medicines through strategic country-led actions to strengthen supply chains and reproductive health services was signed by Dr. Mary Otieno, UNFPA Representative in Uganda and Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija.

The programme not only prioritizes accountability and the effective use of resources to reach the last mile but also marks a step forward for the realization of the Government of Uganda’s FP2030 Commitment as well as universal access to sexual and reproductive health services including family planning.

Dr. Otieno said that in 2019, at the International Conference on Population and Development – ICPD summit in Nairobi, Uganda committed to promoting universal access to all methods of family planning and to reduce the unmet need for family planning from 28% to 10% by 2022, but also pledged to increase the financial support towards reproductive health and family planning supplies and commodities to the last mile.

“Twenty-eight years later, the Republic of Uganda has demonstrated their unwavering commitment to the millions of women and girls in the country.”

According to the 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey, the modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (mCPR) increased from 18.2% in 2001 to 34.8% in 2016, the unmet need for family planning reduced from 35% to 28% for all women while the total fertility rate reduced from 6.9 to 5.4 over the same period.

Dr. Otieno is optimistic that there will be further improvements noted by 2022 Demographic and Health Survey currently being analysed.

She, however, noted that despite these achievements, about 3 out of 10 women in Uganda who want to avoid pregnancy are not using modern contraceptives.

“They are left behind because formidable barriers to reproductive health continue to persist in matters of policy, finance, sociocultural norms, strained health systems, inadequate services and weak supply chains.”

She noted that the programme will ensure that a young woman entering her reproductive years can count on access to and availability of information, services and supplies to protect her sexual and reproductive health and rights.

“She can stay in school, delay marriage, space or avoid pregnancy, protect her health and earn more income,” said Dr. Otieno.

“We know that affordable, quality sexual and reproductive health services save and improve lives. Stronger partnerships including governments, donors, other United Nations agencies, international and national nongovernmental organizations, civil society organizations, academia, the private sector and other implementing partners, can enhance the efficiency and impact for change,” she added.

She commended Uganda for increasing its domestic financing contribution towards the procurement of family planning commodities allocating over 25% of the 6.2 million US dollars for to the Reproductive health commodities budget, noting that it will greatly contribute to the achievement of Uganda’s Vision 2040.

Minister Kasaija commended UNFPA and all development partners for their continued investment in National Health priorities.

He noted that with over half its population under the age of 18, Uganda’s population is expected to increase over the coming decades as the number of children, adolescents, and youth is forecasted to rise from 27.5 million in 2015 to 75.9 million in 2080.

Based on these population dynamics, he said, Uganda is uniquely positioned to harness the economic and social benefits of a young and growing dynamic population.

“The optimized relationship between population growth and accelerated economic growth, also referred to as the demographic dividend, is not automatic. Harnessing the demographic dividend hinges on key and strategic public investment choices. First and foremost, it is critical that the dependency ratio, the share of working-age adults to children, continues to decline.”

“For Uganda, achieving this demographic dividend will not only accelerate economic growth, getting us closer to attaining middle-income status, it also has the potential to boost key social outcomes crucial to improving the daily lives of Ugandans,” he added.

Kasaija said that sexual reproductive health and in particular family planning is one of the key pillars in accelerating the opening of the window of opportunity to harness the demographic dividend.

“The Government of Uganda recognizes the contribution of FP to the social-economic transformation of the country through Uganda’s Vision 2040 with a goal of transforming the country from a predominantly low economy to a competitive upper middle-income country with a per capita income of USD 9,500.”

He added, “This is envisaged to happen if among others the Total Fertility Rate is reduced to 2.5 children per woman from 5.4 children per woman (UDHS, 2016).”

According to him, one of the ways of reducing the Total Fertility Rate is by increased uptake of contraceptives which calls for investing in the procurement of Family planning commodities.

“This will allow for a smaller number of children per household, resulting in larger investments per child, more freedom for women to participate in the national labour market and more household savings for old age thereby providing a window of opportunity for future economic growth.”

Kasaija saif that the Compact Agreement is an emphasis of Uganda’s commitment to invest in family planning as a key intervention to address the unfavorable demographics profile under vision 2040 as the country journeys to middle-income status