Why Family Planning Matters to Us All

USHAPE are honoured to share with you all a copy of the article written by Barbara Thomas US journalist doing missionary work in south-west Uganda, who kindly wrote about the USHAPE project and the ongoing work at Bwindi Community Hospital. 


Why Family Planning Matters to Us All

Barabara Thomas


For several weeks, Bwindi Community Hospital has benefited from training by Dr. Clare Goodhart from Cambridge, UK and representative of USHAPE (Uganda Sexual Health and Pastoral Education). 


Why is this training important? Because it really is about valuing the life of the mother and her children and ultimately saving lives. USHAPE seeks to delay motherhood as teenage mothers are twice as likely to die, including those who attempt abortion. Ugandan teenage pregnancy rate of 24% is the highest in Africa.


Planning a family allows parents to space their children at least 2 years apart. Like teenage pregnacies, mothers over 35 years old are twice as likely to die, especially if they have already had 4 children. In Uganda 22% of maternal deaths could be avoided by family planning. Likewise, 20-30% of infant deaths are preventable. 


Currently 18.93% of Uganda’s population is under the age of five (UNICEF Statistics of the World’s Children 2015 Country Statistical Information) with the average woman bearing 5.9 children (UNICEF 2013 fertility rate).


There is an unmet need for contaception. USHAPE and partners are trying to help women presently not using contraception and who want to wait to have another child for at least 2 years. That’s about 40% of child-bearing women in the Bwindi area. On average, Ugandan women are having two children more than they desire, yet there is cultural pressure on men to have more children. More children does not only bring prestige. By the time a child is 12 years old, his labor on the farm is a net benefit to the family.


The crested crane, a symbol of Uganda, perhaps provides the best model: 2-5 chilcksnurtured by both parents.


U-SHAPE encourages dialog between spouses, teaches young people to safely control their fertility and plan for the future, trains key community leaders as teachers, runs a Sugar Daddy Awareness Campaign and Youth Outreaches, with which BCH staff have been involved, reaching over 400 youth.


Dr. Goodhart gave feedback to the WHO and USAID Training Resource Package using lessons gained from the training at BCH. Sarah Uwimbabazi, nurse-midwife at BCH, is now featured in the front-page photo on WHO’s website. (TRP in Action: Success Stories) 


Family Planning is relevant to every single Millenium Development Goal: 

• support partnerships 
• end hunger and poverty 
• increase education 
• save the envioronment
• decrease HIV/AIDS, 
• improve maternal health  
• improve infant health 
• empower women 
• increase education 


BCH is receiving the training and acting in the community to prevent teenage pregnancies and to avoid HIV spread. They counsel married couples to plan the family they can afford, offering positive messages about family planning and promoting long-acting, reversible contraception. USHAPE is training nurses and midwives to become “Family Planning Providers” so that clients can recieve counseling and servides at every point of health care delivery in the hospital. Informative loop films will be run at the Adult Out-Patient ward and at the HIV clinic. BCH also is working to have sexual health teaching integrated into the local schools.


BCH also has been presenting radio talk shows and plans to bring in expert patients to share their stories as well. The training group suggested TV presentations as well. Though few people in the area have TVs, those that do are influential in the community. BCH would also like to bring local church leaders on board so they can partner in educating their parishes.

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