Uganda is planning to cut back on funding for family planning activities, which could jeopardise its plans to attain middle-income status by 2020.
Though reasons for the cutback are yet to be given, sources say the government is banking on donors to step in and close the gap.
The Minister for Health, Jane Ruth Aceng, says that for the next five years, Uganda will provide $5 million annually for the purchase of family planning products. This amount is at least a million dollars short of what Uganda has been providing for this same budget line, over the last five years.
The country increased funding for family planning products following a 2012 London meeting where President Yoweri Museveni pledged $5 million every year.
When this was implemented, Uganda saw funding for family planning increase from $3.3 million (Ush11.7 billion) in the 2012/13 financial year to $6.8 million (Ush24.2 billion) a year later.
Ms Aceng says the increased funding in the past five years had led to a reduction in a “family planning unmet need” drop from 34 per cent in 2011 to 28 per cent in 2016.
Women with an unmet need are those who are fecund and sexually active but are not using any method of contraception, and report not wanting any more children.
The reduced funding could worsen Uganda’s position as one of the EAC partner states with a high unmet need for family planning.
But Ms Aceng says she plans to leave funding for family planning to the donor community.
According to Ms Aceng, the government has a strategy to mobilise another $20 million per year from the donor community.
This is continuation of a strategy that saw Uganda reduce funding to family planning programmes due to increased provision of products by donors.
Roselline Achola, a reproductive health expert at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), says that government funding for family planning had stayed at about $6.9 million until 2015/16 when it was reduced by half a million dollars, following an increase in donor interventions.
Some experts, however, say that dependence on donor funding is shortsighted, as donors’ priorities are liable to change without notice.
Patrick Mwesigye the chief executive officer of Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum cites the case of the UNFPA whose funding was slashed by US President Donald Trump’s initiated budget cuts.
The UNFPA is one of Uganda’s biggest backers on family planning products. Over the past five years, UNFPA has provided Uganda with $25 million worth of family planning products.
The reduction in government funding could limit family planning options for women.
Uganda has one of the world’s fastest growing populations and currently stands at 43 million. The UN population prospects report shows that by 2050, Uganda will be home to 106 million people.
In comparison, Japan, which in 1950 had 83 million people, will have increased to 109 million people, meaning that it will take Uganda 33 years to achieve a population that Japan has built in 100 years.
Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija, says that Uganda’s target of achieving middle-income status by 2020, has been slowed by the 3 per cent population growth rate, as per capita income increases at just 2 per cent.
Mr Kasaija also says that the high population growth rate means that in order for Uganda to achieve middle-income status by 2020, the country will have to grow GDP from the current $25 million to $42 billion in the next three years.