The Observer (Kampala)

29 July 2014

Uganda: Museveni Wants a Less Dependent Population

At the country's first ever national family planning conference on Monday, President Museveni called for an improved quality of Uganda's population, through service provision.

"Population growth is not the biggest problem but lack of economic growth and transformation. We need quality health services, education, infrastructure and investments," Museveni said, at Serena hotel.

The three-day conference, which started on Monday, was themed: "Accelerating social and economic transformation through universal access to voluntary family planning."

Family planning has proven benefits in terms of promoting gender equality, maternal health, child survival and preventing HIV. Museveni cited examples of countries such as Japan, China and India, which have burgeoning populations but are able to provide quality services for their citizens. To reach their level, Museveni called for a reduction in the high dependency ratio through job creation for youths and scaling up family planning.

"Family planning is good for the children because they will be appropriately taken care of, for the family welfare and for the country as its citizens will be planned for adequately," he said.

The conference is also a follow-up to the commitments made by Museveni at the global family planning summit in London in 2012. Here, he announced that government would increase its annual expenditure on family planning supplies from $3.3m to $5m for the next five years. Sarah Opendi, the junior minister for Primary Health Care, said that uptake of family planning was slowly, but steadily, increasing.

Low contraceptive uptake due to cultural and information barriers and an inadequate health workforce, especially in the hard-to-reach areas, remain the most significant obstacles to the expansion of family planning in the country. The need for contraception is particularly high among teenagers because one in four girls will give birth before the age of 19.

"We need to empower our girls with education and information because the rates of teenage pregnancy are unacceptably high," said Prof Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of UNFPA.

With an annual growth rate of 3.4 per cent, Uganda has one of the world's fastest-growing populations. In response, the ministry of Health is developing a family planning road map for providing universal access to family planning and integrating it into other health services.

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