Uganda this week joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Population day with a call to government to improve access to reproductive health services.
Wednesday's celebrations, under the theme, 'Make access to reproductive health services a priority; address key challenges', were held in Hoima, where Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi pledged to make reproductive health a priority for the next five years.
"Aware that over 90% of reproductive commodities are being provided by donors, we are going to address this by increasing the health budget starting in the 2013/2014 financial year," Mbabazi said.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 41% of the women in Uganda want to use family planning services but can't access or afford them.
"This has resulted in high teenage pregnancies and rates of HIV infections as one out of every four teenage girls is either pregnant or already has a child and 21 % (297,000) of 13-19-year-old girls have ever aborted," said UNFPA Country Director Janet Jackson.
Some of the factors behind the failure to meet the increasing demand for these services include inadequate healthcare staff, cultural barriers such as polygamy, social stigma and sexual myths.
Mbabazi said government will be working to close some of these gaps. He also pledged to address the issue of taxing contraceptives. According to Hoima District Chairman George Tinkamanyire, taxes push the cost of contraceptives up, hampering their availability in rural areas.
Earlier on Tuesday, Charles Zirarema, the Director of the Population Secretariat, had underscored the importance of educating the masses about reproductive health rights. Knowledge, he said, would improve uptake of services with benefits such as spacing of children.