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Church Of Uganda Quietly Allows Use Of Family Planning Contraceptives

The Church of Uganda has tremendously evolved from some of its core principals to accommodate Christian faithful using modern contraceptives of family planning.

Previously, the church stamped a zero tolerance tag on the use of modern contraceptives in favour of the view that the practice is a sacrilegious sin against God.    

Since 2012, this rigid position has changed over the years and priests can now preach family planning onto pulpit. Through its Medical arm, the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau (UPMB), the church is encouraging the faithful to embrace modern family planning services.    

Through different donor-funded projects the Bureau has implemented over the years, modern contraceptives services have been available in 22 Church health care facilities out of the network of more than 300 it operates.  

 Irene Nakiriggya, the Reproductive Health Officer at Mengo based Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau (UPMB) says the Church has found no biblical condemnation of family planning anywhere in the Bible. She says rather than condemn it, the Bible encourages people to plan for their families in many verses including Genesis 1:28.  

 Since the church lifted the veil on the use of modern contraceptives, uptake of family planning services has been significantly boosted among communities. Uganda has 28 percent of Ugandan women have an unmet need for family planning, a decline from 34 percent in 2011.

Government hopes to reduce this figure to 10 percent in the run up to 2020 when the country is expected to attain middle-income status.

Nakiriggya says religious leaders have been trained as family planning champions spearheading the introduction of some of the 12 methods of family planning available in the country, She says the champions comprise of priests, lay readers, fathers’ and mothers’ unions, the youth and village health teams.

There are 12 family planning methods available in Uganda including condoms, lactation Amenorrhea Method, Pills, Injectable, Implant and the moon beads. The others are the Inter Uterine Device, Tubal Ligation, Vasectomy and the Emergency Contraceptive Pills.   
Nakiriggya says before the services were stationed in the 22 health facilities recently, the family planning champions concentrated on referring mothers to government facilities which were offering the services.    

The other is to educate and sensitize Christian families on the misconceptions and myths of family planning services from the biblical stand points as Nakiriggya explains.  

Other Bible Verses the Church is using to popularize Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancies are Genesis 1:28; 1 Timothy 5:8 in which God instructs Christian believers to take good care of their families. The verses say believers who can’t plan and provide for their families are worse than non-believers.      

Among the Family Planning champions, family planning is known as “Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancies (HTSP) and often preached during Baptism ceremonies, Sunday services and other church meetings.   It is during this meeting that Christian families are encouraged to send girl children to school in order to delay child bearing to at least 18 years.    

Reverend Moses Ssemugooma, the Health Coordinator in Mityana Diocese is one of the many Family Planning Champions in the Church of Uganda. He says family planning is not a sacrilegious sin that should be shunned by the Church.  

According to the State of the 2019 World Population Report, 16 women die giving birth in Uganda every day with more than 850,000 unplanned pregnancies every year while the annual population growth rate is 3.3 percent.    

This is motivating some family planning champions to integrate the education on family planning services with messages on Human Immuno Deficiency Virus (HIV) beyond pregnant mothers – to include the youth, who are seen as a group vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies and even HIV.

 This places a high burden on government and families to provide quality care to the growing population. The United Nations Population Fund UNFPA says it is time issues of maternal health under which family planning is a critical component be integrated in the socio-cultural and legislative planning processes.    

Dr Olive Sentumbwe Mugisha, the World Health Organization-WHO Focal Point Person for Reproductive Health, Gender and Human Rights in Uganda says girl child education is critical in eliminating teenage pregnancies and its associated challenges. She says when girls are educated, they make informed choices on when to get pregnant and how many children to have.    
Over the years, the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureaus has worked with partners such as the Christian Connections for International Health and the Packard Foundation to promote proper family planning in and out of the inner circles of the Church.    

Credit: URN


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