Gershom works as a nursing assistant for the Hospital’s family planning team. He is from the Bwindi area, has two children, and his dream is to see Uganda gain control over its population growth. Each Friday he travels on his motorcycle to every village in the Bwindi area to fill up the wooden condom boxes he has put up, where local people can access condoms for free.
Uganda has one of the highest fertility rates in the world at seven children per woman, and has the youngest population on the planet with a median age of less than fifteen. Large families trap people in poverty with not enough money for food, schooling and health care for their children. High fertility rates are dangerous for women, and make it hard for them to escape traditional childbearing roles. A 3% annual population growth rate is unsustainable for the environment, and leaves younger generations without enough water or land for cultivation.
Three years ago very few couples in the Bwindi area were accessing family planning (birth control). Now the contraceptive prevalence rate (proportion of women of child-bearing age using some form of contraception) is 28%. Our target is 40%.
Bwindi Community Hospital, in partnership with Family Health International, has trained 40 village health workers to be able to give contraceptive pills and injections. This has had a stunning impact on use of birth control, and now more than 500 women a month access their contraception through this network. The Hospital integrates family planning into HIV and postnatal clinics, and runs Family Planning Camps where we insert an implant that lasts for five years.
Gershom and his colleagues engage in debate on the radio, in villages and in trading centres, particularly with the men of the area who are the real decision makers and often those who are most opposed to reducing family sizes.
How you can help
The family planning work in Bwindi is probably the most valuable contribution that we make to the long-term health of the community and the environment. None of our patients are charged, so we rely entirely on donations. We are supplied with drugs from the Government of Uganda but the salaries of our staff, transport costs and all of the training and support given to the village health workers relies on donations. The Hospital has written a three-year plan describing how we can reach our target of 40% contraceptive prevalence, a goal that will require about $20,000 per year. Any contribution, however large or small, will go directly to helping those most in need.