Kasese, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Persons with Disabilities in Bundibugyo and Kasese districts have asked policymakers to enact laws that will ease their access to reproductive health services. They specifically want a house-to-house delivery of family planning services to households accommodating PWDs.
Sarah Kabagenyi, the chairperson of Bundibugyo District Association of Women with Disability-BAWD told URN that although persons with disabilities have the same sexual and reproductive health needs as other people, they often face barriers to information and service, and are often unable to access the same range of health services as provided to other persons.
For example, Kabagenyi says, those with hearing impairments are unaware of health services that include family planning mostly because they are not empowered to demand them, and some are illiterate. Kabagenyi is also asking policymakers to develop laws to guide the construction of public structures, noting that most of these are inaccessible for persons with physical disabilities.
Barbra Kabahenda, another person with disabilities, attributes the inability to access productive health services to discrimination, ignorance and negative social attitude of society and healthcare providers, and cultural assumptions that treat PWDs as less of humans. She adds that many women have had unplanned pregnancies because they are unable to protect themselves from men who take advantage of their disabilities.
Joy Nakesa, from the National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda-NUWODU wants the government and health care providers to extend reproductive services at the village level arguing that PWDs access is also hampered by inaccessible health facilities and limited information tailored to their health needs. She also wants health facilities to have special teams to handle persons with disabilities, noting that there is a negative attitude of health care providers that is discouraging many PWDs from seeking services.
Bonny Mumbere, another physically handicapped resident argues that men with disabilities have been left out of all discussions and awareness campaigns on reproductive health, and reasons, that keeping men out of accessing information affects the quality of their family life.
Esther Kyozira, the Programs Director at the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda-NUDIPU told URN that the proposal to have a house-to-house delivery of reproductive health services is ideal because persons with disabilities are not so many to strain the country’s resources. She also wants messages of sexual reproduction to be well crafted to reach out to everyone, including those with hearing and visual impairments.
Banjo Masereka, the district councilor representing Persons with Disabilities in Kasese says that pregnancies among girls with disabilities have increased because they lack sexual reproductive services. Because of their disabilities, Masereka says many PWDs notably girls are manipulated by those they hope to get assistance from.
Asiimwe Zainaby, the Kasese District Social Welfare Officer says children with disabilities have suffered more during the lockdown because of the limited access to services.
Fortunate Kagumaho, a staff of Reproductive Health Uganda-RHU acknowledges that persons with disabilities face numerous challenges to access general health care. To arrest this gap, Kagumaho says RHU has worked with community leaders and VHTs to identify vulnerable groups that find it hard to access reproductive services and taken such services nearer to them on special days.