Ugandan Ministry of Health announces new guidelines that will provide women in Uganda with greater access to injectable contraceptives

March 11, 2011

KAMPALA, Uganda Today, the Ugandan Ministry of Health announced a key change to their national health policy that will enable community health workers to provide injectable contraception to women in hard to reach rural areas. This historic change will not only help Ugandans progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals but also provide women with greatly expanded access to a mix of contraceptive options.

"We believe community based delivery of injectable contraception is the best avenue to increase access to the most popular family planning method in Uganda, particularly for women living in hard-to-reach areas," said Dr. Nathan Kenya Mugisha, Director General of Health Services in the Ministry of Health. "In addition to significantly reducing the unmet demand for services, community based delivery of injectables raises consciousness about family planning, and allows Ugandan women to make decisions about their fertility that are right for themselves and their families."

According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (2006), unmet need for Family Planning in Uganda is 41 percent, among the highest in Africa. A 2004 pilot study, funded by USAID and conducted by the Ministry of Health, Save the Children, and Family Health International, showed evidence that community-based access to injectables is a safe, feasible and acceptable delivery model. Through bringing services to the communities—meeting women where they live—this new policy overcomes the single greatest barrier to contraceptive uptake among women: accessibility to health facilities.

"It is widely known that access to health services is one of the biggest barriers women face in their ability to use contraception, and we have been able to use evidence to show that bringing these services to the communities is a safe and effective approach," said Dr. Angela Akol, Uganda Country Director for FHI, a leading international health and development organization.

Although this is a promising model, the Ministry of Health emphasises that Community Based Distribution programs cannot work in isolation. A functioning referral system and the support of district health teams are essential. However, having the needed policy in place will allow for these support systems to grow and mature. This step by the Ministry demonstrates the Government of Uganda's commitment to expanding access to this family planning method.

"We recognise that Community Based Distribution activities can complement—but not replace—the government health units. Getting supplies and continuing supervision from health facilities is important for sustainability," said Dr. Anthony Mbonye, Commissioner for Community Health in the Ministry of Health. "Effectively linking the community and the health facility is important."