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Museveni pledges $5m to family planning drive

President Museveni has pledged to commit $5m (Shs 12.5bn) annually to funding family planning services in Uganda.

This commitment marks a break from the past, when family planning has had no directly committed funding from the government.

“This is a small figure, [but it] will give us a higher threshold to deal with this problem eventually,” Museveni was quoted as having said in London on Wednesday.

The President spoke at the London Summit on Family Planning, co-hosted by the UK Government’s Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The summit brought together some 150 opinion leaders from donor and developing countries, international agencies, civil society and the private sector.

The unmet need for family planning in Uganda stands at 41 per cent – women who want to use family planning services but cannot access or afford them. According to a source who attended the summit, Museveni said the government would improve distribution of reproductive health supplies to public and private units – to prevent stock-outs.

World leaders pledged up to $2.6bn to provide voluntary family planning services to an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries by 2020.  About $10bn over eight years is needed to sustain the current use of contraception by 260 million women in the 69 poorest countries.

“Every six minutes a woman who does not want to be pregnant dies during pregnancy or childbirth. Every six minutes. How many minutes do we want to wait before we act? I say we don’t wait at all,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Museveni said his government of Uganda was committed to ensuring an environment where women could exercise their choices and access services. He said leaders must address reproductive health needs in the context of socioeconomic transformation.

“As leaders, we must rededicate ourselves to women’s and reproductive health. Women do not only give life – they are the backbone of the economies in the developing world. The issue of population in Africa must be put in proper context and discussed accurately without complacency, exaggeration or panic,” Museveni told the summit, which recognised him for trying to bring a dose of realism to the event.

Museveni said the problem is not population growth per se but the problems of underdevelopment and lack of socioeconomic transformation on the one hand and child spacing for the good health of the babies as well as mothers on the other.

“Family planning should be out of informed choice, not manipulation. In Uganda, we are prioritizing reproductive health, and services have been scaled up,” Museveni added.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “When I travel and talk to women around the world they tell me that access to contraceptives can often be the difference between life and death. Today is about listening to their voices, about meeting their aspirations, and giving them the power to create a better life for themselves and their families.”

smwesigye@observer.ug

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