Family Planning: A Growing Trend in Uganda, But Sustainability Is a Challenge

Family Planning: A Growing Trend in Uganda, But Sustainability Is a Challenge

Over the course of the past ten days, I have been fortunate to visit the Central, Eastern, and Western Regions of Uganda.  As part of these visits, I have traveled through and spent time in many of the districts in these regions. It is during these drives through the countryside that I have noticed the campaigns for family planning services over and over again. Though it is possible my eye is fine tuned to notice these signs, as I am here supporting STRIDES for Family Health (a MSH-led, USAID funded family planning, reproductive health, and child and maternal health project), it would be hard for anyone to miss the cheerful rainbows that are posted on signs outside many of the health centers and hospitals indicating that family planning services are provided in that facility.

Signs promoting available family planning services in Uganda, March 2011.


However, each facility's breadth of services can vary, depending on the training of the health workers and the availability of supplies. In some cases, services may not exist at all: many of these signs are the remnants of past projects that have now ended; without additional support, the facility is no longer able to maintain the services it once provided.

Sustainability of family planning services once foreign aid has ended is a major challenge seen by project staff and the clinicians and district health workers. For STRIDES, the project team is acutely aware of the need for sustainability and has made this a priority of its interventions. In addition, the false advertising can have a negative effect for clients who come looking for services, but lose trust when they find the services are not actually available in that facility.

There are stories that give glimpses of hope and show that STRIDES is making an impact in Ugandan communities. I had the opportunity to talk to three clients of the Family Life Education Program (FLEP) clinic, one of the programs STRIDES supports, who had all chosen to receive permanent methods of family planning.

The patients I spoke with---two women and one man---live in a remote village about five miles from the center of town (where the clinic is located) in the district of Kamuli. The thread that carried through each of their stories was that they had all learned about family planning from their friends and neighbors, who had either learned about it through the radio programs the project supports or from others in their village. Both women that I spoke with said they had talked to several other women in their village who had already had a tubal ligation and were pleased with the outcome.

The fact that this topic is the “talk of the town” speaks volumes on the progress being made in these areas to educate the communities about the family planning methods that are available and promote their use. I was impressed by the strength and determination of each of these individuals to go through with such procedures. They had to be proactive to get further information from the village health workers, as well as make the journey by foot to the clinic for the actual procedure.

Lovisha, with two of her eight children: 3 month old Simon, and 2 ½ year old Peter


In short, it seems that Uganda is abuzz with interest in family planning. It will continue to grow in popularity as its benefits are seen by an increasing number of patients and it remains a topic in day-to-day conversation. The significant challenge that lies ahead is creating strategies to ensure that once projects, such as STRIDES, come to an end, there are mechanisms in place to allow this good work to continue.

Lisa Pelcovits is a Project Support Associate at MSH.