opinionBy Anthony Bugembe
Kampala — THE time has come for Uganda to come up with policies to regulate fertility as a way of controlling the sprawling population growth rate.
With an average of 3,000 babies born daily, it is increasingly becoming difficult for the Government, donors and other stakeholders to meet the basic needs of the more than 30 million Ugandans. Matters are not helped by the worsening climatic conditions, themselves a result of the uncontrolled population growth.
Research shows that by the age of 19, about 61% of female adolescents in Uganda are either mothers or pregnant for the first time. We should then ask ourselves: If nothing is done to limit their fertility, how many children will they have mothered by the end of the reproductive age of 49 years?
According to the Population Reference Bureau, 97% of women in the reproductive age group in Uganda have knowledge about at least one family planning method. However, because of one reason or another, these women are not using them to stop, space or limit childbirth.
At the same time, short birth intervals are affecting the country's human resource. About 25% of the births in Uganda occur less than two years after the previous birth. This keeps mothers in the business of nursing a pregnancy or a baby, leaving them with little time to contribute meaningfully to individual and national development.
There are indications that our young people are ignorant about the need to plan their lives for a better future. Their reproductive behaviour has not changed enough to enable them avoid temptations that can permanently ruin their future.
The number of children one gives birth to is everyone's responsibility. If you gave birth to say, four children and I gave birth to 10 children, you too will feel the pinch. The facilities and services available will not be enough for us all. No wonder land conflicts are increasing.
Uganda, being a multi-cultural country, makes it difficult for population control measures to take root, due to certain religious and cultural beliefs that discourage birth control.
It is high time the country focused on a quality population instead of numbers because we have already achieved the latter.
The writer is the national programme officer (Media Liaison), Population Secretariat