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Ugandan NGOs celebrate Biden’s change of policy on women’s health

 

Biden signing the executive order recently

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Executive order by the newly sworn US President, Joe Biden repealing the U.S. Mexico City Policy alias the global gag rule has excited local Non-Governmental organisations.

The order that led to the signing of a memorandum guaranteeing protection of Women’s health both in the US and abroad, according to Jackson Tungana Chekweko, the Executive Director Reproductive Health Uganda gives green light to the return of many services that had been halted in Uganda and yet couldn’t be fully provided by the government.

He says in Uganda, they were using the money to offer post-abortion care, contraceptives especially in rural areas and other reproductive health-related outreach services, which grounded to a halt in 2017 when the former US President Donald Trump signed the order.

First put in place by President Ronald Reagan and reinstated by President Trump, the policy denied US funding to organizations around the world that provide information, referrals or services related to legal abortion or advocate for abortion, even with their own money.

While past iterations of the policy applied solely to US family planning assistance, Trump’s iteration had expanded to apply to almost all US global health bilateral assistance including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was supporting HIV prevention and treatment services.

The effects were disastrous in Uganda, Chekweko recalls laying off staff and abrupt cancelling of running contracts especially in the Kigezi region where they had gotten partnerships with the local government and opened new offices.

They had also started orienting health workers on how to administer new technologies in contraceptive use such as Sayana press, which women can self-administer but was equally affected.

James Tumusiime, the Country Director of Reach a Hand Uganda, a Youth NGO calls says this is a new dawn for NGOs working in the sexual reproductive health sector.

He told URN in an interview on Saturday that they are hopeful new partnerships are to come up, which will, in turn, increase access to services.

Chekweko says when the order comes into force; they will be in a position to respond first by filling the void especially in areas where post-abortion care services and other family planning outreaches were halted

Elsewhere, women rights advocates are pushing for legislation preventing the return of the gag rule in the future.

Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman, the President of the International AIDS Society, said in a statement on Saturday that she welcomed the end to the rule and urged the US administration to consider legislation preventing its probable return in future.

She said as an HIV professional, she knows ending HIV requires equitable access to information and services for women and all people seeking care not censorship.

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