“The governance structures are in place. They are well designed. But we do not do what we want to do.”
This quote by the ACHEST Executive Director Prof. Francis Omaswa, set the tone for discussion at the 2020 Reproductive, Maternal Newborn Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) Youth E-summit.
The third annual summit was held on August 8, under the theme “Leveraging local government structures to address persistent SRHR challenges and harness opportunities of a young population for national development.”
While delivering the keynote address, Prof. Omaswa stated that the current system was not adequately serving the vast majority of Africa’s youth who have dropped out of school and have no skills.
“We need to do something about the youth and our solution should be tailored for two groups of the youth -- the highly educated, high flying youth in urban areas; and the out of school, unskilled and demoralised youth in rural areas. The latter are just living on their own. They don't see themselves as part of the society. We have a big youth crisis in the country,” said Prof. Omaswa.
He explained that the decentralisation process in Uganda which started in 1997 seeks to take services to the local governments-- or nearer to the people, while the central government focuses on policy formulation, standards setting, resource mobilisation and human resources.
“Implementation of all services were decentralised to the local governments and we need to engage them,” he said.
Prof. Omaswa also gave a detailed elaboration on the governance structures at all levels - from the National Level or Cabinet level, to the District, Sub-county and Community Level.
“This structure is well designed and excellent. It's a question of making things happen. It can reach every home, LC1 and parish chief. If we operationalise this, we will be able to achieve our goals. Let’s work to achieve the targets so that no one is left behind. In Uganda, we have structures which can achieve SDGs and Universal Health Coverage,” stressed Prof. Omaswa
Moving forward, he called for the mindset change and the need to hold duty bearers accountable.
“Mindset change which says there is a problem and I don't want to live with this problem. One of Africa’s biggest challenges is people living normally with a problem. You go to a health facility where there are no drugs and health workers, and you give up! And yet, the health management structures are there. We need to hold ourselves and our duty bearers to account. You're not nobody, you are a citizen. You have a right to be served,” said Prof. Omaswa.
The summit also reflected on the emerging evidence on the effects of COVID19 pandemic on young people, especially in accessing sexual reproductive health information and services. A survey report on CSOs implementing RMNCAH Interventions, revealed the challenges and recommendations from both the Youth led and youth serving CSOs partners, as well as District Committees on Adolescent Health in Uganda.
However, it also reveals that technological innovations are making a difference. Overall, 95% of the CSO’s members surveyed reported that they are providing SRH programmes through digital health.
The summit was graced by the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Dr. Diana Atwine, who echoed similar concerns on the threats that adolescents are facing during the COVID-19 imposed lockdown on education. These, she observed, include teenage pregnancies and drug abuse. Dr. Atwine also urged partners to synergise adolescent health programmes to accelerate progress.
Panelits included Dr. Richard Mugahi, the Assistant Commissioner of Reproductive Health in the Ministry of Health, Faith Mairah, the Youth Country Coordinator for the SRHR Alliance Uganda, Friday Madinah from the Ministry of Gender and Social Development and Rev. Constantine Mbonabingi, the Secretary General of the Uganda Joint Christian Council and board member of Faith For Family Health Initiative (3FHi).
ACHEST was one of the key partners that supported the preparations for the RMNCAH Youth E-summit which was streamlined live on TV, Zoom and Social Media platforms.