Uganda is one of the countries globally that is committed to achieving the Millennium Development goals. Goal five on improving maternal health, meeting women’s contraceptive needs has played an important role. MDG five aims to reduce the maternal mortality ratio and achieve universal access to reproductive health, including family planning.
According to the World Health Organisation satisfying the unmet needs for family planning alone could cut the number of maternal deaths by almost a third. However, an estimated number of women who would prefer to delay or avoid pregnancy continue to lack access to safe and effective contraception thus along with providing skilled maternal care, offering family planning is crucial to averting maternal deaths.
Even though in Uganda, we have witnessed a rise in contraceptive use, many women continue to have unmet need for contraception. There are various factors contributing to this trend ranging from individual, societal and environment barriers. There is need to facilitate women to learn and actively seek how and where to receive family planning services. According to studies it has been proven that women who use contraceptives tend to have a better quality of life compared to illiterate and less wealthy women. Contraceptive use has the power to reduce fertility considerably and ultimately to improve maternal and child health. We need to emphasise the benefits of contraception to use its use among the most vulnerable who are the women that would like to experience a quality life but are not due to life’s challenges.
Today, many women in Uganda are not taking steps to use contraceptives because of the different barriers that have driven fear mongering on family planning services. This fear mongering is a catalyst in low up take of contraceptive use. For example, because some health workers have personal beliefs on contraceptive methods, they discourage women and men who walk in their health facilities to use these life saving services. It is the responsibility of every health provider to put aside their belief and give complete information on various contraceptive method choice so that the client can voluntarily choose that which might suit their needs. Instead of giving credit to what one hears in your community about the contraception, seek factual information from a qualified health provider or trusted source on health.
The truth is that contraception is important and part of the sexual and reproductive health rights. It is proven that various contraceptive methods help prevent unintended pregnancies and transmission of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/Aids. These methods give both women and men options in deciding how to lead their lives. Therefore, talking ill and fear mongering about the different methods is not helpful.
People and even some health providers spread false information about contraception because they either lack information or knowledge. This coupled with social barriers can stop women and men from accessing contraception services.
We all desire to have a country where every mother in the family is able to have a safe delivery and safe health family, however, this shared vision will not be realised unless we address the facilitating barriers to adoption of desired health behaviour.
Giving information is not enough to address these barriers, people are not able to change based on this alone, we must facilitate women and men to recognise the need to achieve quality health. That should be our shared vision as Ugandans.
Ms Mirembe is a communications coordinator with PACE. firstname.lastname@example.org