Hold gov't accountable for reproductive health commitments – Kadaga

The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kagada has implored African legislators to hold their governments accountable for the reproductive health commitments they make.

Kadaga observed that over the year, there were a number of pledges that African countries have made that need to be effected.

These include the Maputo Plan of Action whose main objective is universal access to reproductive health services; and the Abuja Declaration, which calls for at least 15% of national budgets to health.

“We have many Addis Ababa declarations adopted at the Africa Union as blueprints for guiding policy and implementation. We also have the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by countries at the UN in September 2015. It should be our work as parliamentarians to play our oversight functions and ensure that our governments fulfill the commitments they make. All these engagements that we get involved in are really about delivering a better Africa, a better world for the benefit of the people we serve,” said Kadaga.

She made the remarks in a speech read for her by the chairperson of the parliamentary health committee, Dr. Michael Bukenya during the Network of African Parliamentary Committees of Health meeting in Kampala.

Kadaga observed that African countries shame similar reproductive health problems.

“The problems range from high incidences of Sexually Transmitted Infections including HIV/AIDS, high maternal mortality rates, high infant mortality rates, low contraceptive use, unmet reproductive health needs among many others,” Kadaga wrote

She urged parliamentarians would help remove legal and administrative barriers to access quality health services.

“You can influence resource allocation and ensure clear budget lines and expenditures on health; and you can ensure that funds from both the national budgets and donors are spent efficiently. The answers to addressing health issues including sexual and reproductive health problems that confront us are therefore not far-fetched. The answers are within our reach,” stated Kadaga.

Commenting on the forthcoming International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) is supposed to be held in Nairobi to review commitments made 25 years ago, Kadaga added: “We need to take stock of our achievements, lessons learned and remaining challenges, as well as develop concrete actions for accelerated implementation of the remaining ICPD agenda.”

 The UNFPA Country Representative Alain Sibenaler also concurred: “We expect commitments to end preventable maternal deaths, eliminate the unmet need for modern contraceptives, and end gender-based violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation among others.”

Uganda’s statistics are sobering. With a high-unmet need for family planning, teenage pregnancies have stagnated in the last decade at 25%, while the maternal mortality rate is at 336 per 100,000 live births.

Sibenaler explained that most complications women face while giving birth reflect broader health inequities and health-care constraints and challenges. These include poverty, gender inequality, child marriage, and teenage pregnancies, all of which impede the wellbeing of women and girls. 

The Executive director of the Partners in Population and Development Adnene Ben Haj Aissa said: “ There is a structural imbalance between the haves and the haves-not that needs to be corrected urgently and the solution lies in empowering countries. These imbalances exist because of our own failure in addressing the basic and intrinsic variables that are responsible to improve living conditions at home.”

During the event, panelists regretted the lack of coordinated budgeting and planning across sectors. 

“In most of our countries, sectors continue to budget in silos. There is a lot of duplication. Yet some issues are completely neglected,” said Dr. David Okello, the director of non-communicable diseases and healthy ageing at the African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation.

“The left hand should know what the right hand is doing. There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals. But they are all interlinked. You can’t talk about one without talking about others,” he added.

Organized by the Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office, the three-day meeting sought to provide space for discussions with policy makers to and provide a way forward on improving reproductive health and family planning.