Reach A hand Uganda, Partners Launch The Men Plus II And U Decide Kasese- Bunyangabu Projects
By Our Reporter
Reach A Hand Uganda and partners seek to increase access to modern family planning information and services, with a keen focus on increasing male involvement through the MenPlus II project and improving access to family planning information and services through the U Decide Kasese-Bunyangabu project in the target communities over the next 3 years.
July 7th, 2022 marked the launch of these two innovative Family Planning projects by the State Minister for Gender Labor and Social Development Hon. Peace Mutuzo. Reach a Hand Uganda and its partners (Reproductive Health Uganda and Marie Stopes Uganda), alongside representatives from Parliament including the area MP for Bunyangabu Hon. Kamukama Davis, and the Ministry of Health, witnessed the launch of Men Plus II and the U Decide Kasese Bunyangabu projects. MenPlus focuses on bringing men at the forefront of family planning as users, champions and agents. Men have vasectomy as a method of choice if they have attained their desired family size but also can encourage their partners to use modern family planning methods. This project currently focuses on 7 districts including; Kampala (KMP), Mbarara, Arua, Lira, Bushenyi, Rwampara and Soroti.
The U Decide Project in Kasese and Bunyangabu districts focuses on increasing access to family planning services using the community based approach where CHWs and peer educators meet the short term family planning needs of clients within the community and only make referrals for long term or permanent methods to the health centres. The project will support 24 public health facilities in the two districts contributing to health systems strengthening through training, mentorships of health workers and providing equipment for better service delivery. .
While giving opening remarks, Mr. James Tumusiime, the Country Director of Reach A Hand Uganda talked of the first phase of the #MenplusUG project that was informed by one of the RAHU’s Inter-generational dialogues where young girls and young women boldly revealed the challenges they encounter with men that have otherwise had their desired family sizes being responsible for several unplanned pregnancies among the young girls sometimes leading to unsafe abortions.
This birthed a male-centered program that promotes the utilisation of family planning services putting the men at the forefront and curbs the SRHR challenges that Ugandans are facing. The first phase of this program resulted in to 345 vasectomies among other methods being done which showed that it is possible that men too can use a permanent method of family planning.
The Minister, Gender, Labour and Social development Hon. Peace Mutuuzo who was the chief guest encouraged the Implementing Partners to work within the existing structures in the communities to deliver accurate information about the family planning services.
She also highlighted the high rate of rape cases in the country which needs to be addressed with urgency because it is leading to high teenage pregnancies. She emphasized partnerships and collaborations especially among ministries to promote family planning. Family planning is not just a health issue but also a gender issue and therefore there is a need to move together if we are to achieve economic transformation. The minister emphasized the need to address the cultural, religious barriers and use a myriad of approaches and channels to reach the people with this information but also use the learning from the first phase of the project implementation. The minister emphasized the integration with HIV prevention but also guard against politicising development issues like family planning. She also called on development partners to support the people of Bunyangabu who are being ravaged by increasing cancers and Bilharzia.
Dr. Francis Ndamaje, the regional representative from Bergstrom Foundation urged all partners to continue collaborating with stakeholders, especially the Ministry of Health in managing stock outs, and mentorship of more surgeons that provide permanent methods. He requested the MOH to revisit the proposal of task shifting to allow non surgeons to perform permanent method procedures.
The Assistant commissioner In-charge of reproductive and infant health, Ministry of Health, Dr. Richard Mugahi urged partners to utilise certified service providers to avoid mistakes that can result in future legal issues including proper consent processes of the clients.
The Assistant Commissioner urged all partners and other stakeholders present at the launch to continue creating awareness by providing accurate information.
He urged the implementing teams to relate the family planning issues to economic development because of the state of the economy in the country currently. He tasked the partners and the MOH to develop Family Planning talking points for legislators to have more FP champions within parliament. He stressed the need to join efforts of re-entry of teenage mothers back to school and work towards preventing the “double teenage pregnancies” if the first one was a mistake, then efforts need to be made to prevent the second to give the girls a chance to pursue their careers.
The partners were encouraged to be innovative about the packaging of the messages when providing family planning information. He emphasised that involvement of men should be deliberate and have integration of other health issues like HIV, Antenatal care, safe delivery and this can be done by utilising the male action groups in the different sub counties in the implementation districts because family planning cannot exist in isolation.
The launch was also attended by a satisfied user and a father of 12 from Mukono district who shared his story on how, and why he made the choice of getting a vasectomy. He mentioned his wife’s support in championing this method of Family Planning. He pledged to continue supporting the project goal by talking to more men about the advantages of having a vasectomy.
Hon Peace Mutuuzo together with other high-level government officials, and the implementing partners of these projects officially launched the MenPlusII and U Decide Kasese-Bunyangabo projects from Fairway Hotel Kampala, and Reach a Hand Uganda is set for the implementation, increasing uptake and reducing the unmet need for Family Planning services in the country.
The population of Uganda continues to grow, despite efforts by government, civil society and community-based organisations to reduce fertility rates, including the promotion of access to and use of modern family planning services across the country. Uganda’s population has grown by 2.7% from the year 2021 and grew by 3.02% between 2020 and 2021 1 .
Family Planning is one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century 2 and the availability and use of contraceptives , is a tool with which women can achieve their rights to health, education, autonomy, and personal decision making about the number and timing of childbearing making it an effective strategy in the pursuit of young girl’s and women’s sexual and reproductive rights, addressing the vulnerability by socio-economic classification, that is increased by Family size and the resulting dependency ratio.
Access to family planning information and services, averts child and maternal mortality through preventing unplanned pregnancies thereby improving maternal and child health indicators, family planning also reduces the need for abortions (especially unsafe abortions).
Investment in a diverse range of family planning methods, including short-term, long term and permanent methods, reduces the cost per couple of years of protection (CYP) and results in better savings per CYP in the commodity service cost of the national method mix. Although there has been improvement in the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate, the unmet need for services of among the currently married women aged 15-49 is 28%, which is high and higher still at 32% among sexually active unmarried women according to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey of 2016.