The US government intends to dedicate a portion of its Shs 1.7 trillion health budget on providing family planning services to adolescents and women, but admits it is facing challenges getting Ugandan authorities to buy into the idea.
The USAID Mission director in Uganda, Mark Meassick, told journalists at the US mission on Wednesday that they will give special focus on family planning and reproductive health, through providing crucial, age-appropriate information to adolescents.
With Uganda recording one of the highest incidences of teenage pregnancies in the world, according to Meassick, it is important that mechanisms to address these challenges are put in place to avert what could become a full blown crisis. But the government does not support the provision of contraception to adolescents, he added.
“One of our challenges that we are working closely with government is trying to figure out how we address family planning with adolescent girls,” he said.
“We have had discussions with the First Lady about age-appropriate sex education and so we are trying to work out details about how that will work and what that needs to look like.
Ambassador Deborah Malac, who presented the first ever report highlighting US-supported activities in Uganda at the same event, revealed that the health sector received about Shs 1.7 tn of the Shs 2.9 tn her government gave Uganda last year.
However, she also acknowledged that while comprehensive sexuality education is a sensitive topic in Uganda, health programmes under USAID are developed in consultation with government to ensure that they are both culturally sensitive and age-appropriate.
“Our discussion is less about offering family planning services per se to young children at age 10 or 11,” she said. “We want to ensure that through the programming we have and in close consultation with government, these services are available to ensure that women can protect their health and that of their family members.”
Debate on provision of contraceptives to adolescents has in the recent past kicked up a storm among health rights activists and religious leaders in Uganda, with many expressing concern on whether it is proper for children to access family planning tools before they reach 18 years.