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Six million Ugandans do not access sexual and reproductive health services

State Minister for Lands Dr Chris Baryomunsi (L) Shares A Moment With Executive Director Uganda Population Council Dr Jotham Musinguzi (C) and Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe (R) at the Conference gd

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  |  Sexual and Reproductive Health Services remain inaccessible for an estimated six million people in the country.  A number of these are persons with visual challenges, hearing impairments, the physically handicapped and refugees, among others.  

A group or researchers has challenged the government and policy makers to introduce deliberate policies for the integration of the vulnerable groups in care in line with a goal to leave no one behind.  

Connie Kekihembo, the Executive Director of the Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Uganda says that young people with a physical disability and those with other impairments are mocked whenever they visit health facilities to enrol for family planning services. This was based on data collected from Mukono and Luweero districts, last year.  

“The problem starts right from our homes in our inabilities to effectively communicate issues of sexuality with our children due to persistent low coverage of sign language skills in the country. How do we tell them the issues of puberty, body changes, the growth of breast and menstruation?” she paused.

The National Parliamentary Representative for persons with disabilities, Sofia Nalule Jjuuko said that the most glaring evidence is the lack of disability beds in most labour suits in health facilities in Uganda. Nalule said the exclusion affects Six Million Persons Living with Disabilities identified in the 2014 National Population and Housing Census.  

She called for new policy regimes for the integration of the vulnerable groups in access, uptake and utilization of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services.  They were speaking at a Policy Round-table at the ongoing African Population Conference in Entebbe on Wednesday.    

Similarly, Stella Neema, a Research Fellow at Makerere University says that studies conducted in Nakivale Refugees Settlement found no youth-friendly Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in the Four Health Facilities operating there.      

Esther Leah Achandi, a former Research Fellow at the University of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania studied access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services among 120 Burundian and Rwandan displaced young women living in Ugandan Refugee Settlements.  

She says they found that poverty, mobility and orphanage are major hindrances to access to Sexual and Reproductive Services despite years of advocacy and an increase in the proportion of the Population using Contraceptives.

“When parents can’t provide Pads for menstruating young girls, they attach themselves to someone else which enslaves them in transactional sex under the duress of poverty. And this means more unplanned pregnancies, unwanted children and early marriages among others” she explained.

The 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Surveys puts the rate of teenage pregnancy in the country at 25 per cent. The figure is higher among out of school adolescents’ youth pushed out by high poverty burden, mobility from rural areas to urban areas and the high unemployment rates.     

Dr Chris Baryomunsi, the State Minister for Urban Development says the recognition that special needs groups of people were being left behind has triggered the implementation of new budgetary measures for their inclusion.  Dr Baryomunsi says that today, all ministerial and sector budgets are accompanied by disability, gender and equity certificates of compliance before they are approved for implementation.       

Under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, countries such as Uganda Committed to guaranteeing the enjoyment of reproductive health and reproductive rights by allowing women to decide if, when, with whom and how often to bear children.  The rights advocate for safe pregnancy-safe delivery, with adequate antenatal and postnatal care, access to family planning counselling and a range of modern contraceptive methods.        

The United Nations Population Fund UNFPA says the success of the commitment depends on among others timely, comprehensive sexuality education that allows adolescents and young people to learn about their bodies, understand relationships, make informed decisions about their sexuality, and stand up against sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.

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