KAMPALA – Uganda’s biggest annual youth meeting on health — the RMNCAH Youth summit, takes place virtually on Saturday August 8, 2020.
RMNCAH is an acronym for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child and Adolescent Health.
Organised by the Ministry of Health and partners, the E-summit will be hosted under the theme “Leveraging local government structures to address persistent SHRH challenges of a young population for national development.”
The RMNCAH related challenges currently constitute a major public health problem, with young people disproportionately affected.
Almost 28% of maternal deaths in Uganda are attributed to young girls aged 15–24 years and 60% of premature deaths among adults are associated with behaviors or conditions that began or occurred during adolescence. Uganda continues to have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Sub-Saharan Africa, currently at 25%. Yet, Uganda is a young nation — with more than 70 percent of the population aged below 24 years and 50.3% under 15 years old , according to the 2016 Uganda Health Demographic Survey.
Against this background, the RMNCAH Youth Secretariat has been championing a movement to help improve these indicators. Through the annual youth summit, young people are given a platform to speak and share experiences about health issues, engage policy makers and development partners to address these issues or act from an informed point of view.
This year’s RMNCAH Youth Summit comes amidst unprecedented times. The COVID-19 Pandemic has led to closure of schools, ban on public transport and the total shut down of operations. This has left young people with little or no access to correct and age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and services.
The 2020 RMNCAH E-Summit will therefore reflect on the potential social-economic effects of COVID19 and SRHR issues among young people, including limited access to family planning, access to safe places and access to economic activities. It will also look at sexual and gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy, and sex education among others. During the summit, best practices and lessons on SRHR program implementation during COVID will be shared.
Over 500 youths across the country are expected to attend the summit which will be hosted live on TV, social media, and zoom. Also invited are policy makers, government officials, civil society and development partners.
Commenting on the importance of the Summit, Dr. Richard Mugahi, the Assistant Commissioner of Reproductive Health at the Ministry of Health said: “ The RMNCAH Youth E-Summit is an opportunity for us to galvanize our efforts in addressing the reproductive health concerns of young people, even in the most difficult situations like the current COVID-19 Pandemic. We call upon all stakeholders to participate actively for the future of our young people.”
Prof. Francis Omaswa, the Executive Director of the African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST) said, “Creating opportunities for the youth to take charge of their own lives is Africa’s biggest challenge today. Let’s all rally around the youth and listen to them.”
Winnie Musubiika, the Deputy Director of Naguru Teenage Information and Health Center said, “The summit provides a platform for dialogue where young people are able to engage policy makers, ministry of health, development partners on their SRHR needs and how these can be met.
She added: “It is also an opportunity for government and stakeholders to provide accountability to young people on what has been done in addressing young people’s SRHR needs.”
Surayah Mwanaisha, a young woman in her early 20’s who has already registered for the event, says, “I attended last year’s summit. It is fun and educative. Young people get exposed to new ideas on SRHR , meet new people, and also get to share experiences.. They also get to know what policy makers are doing to improve the issues that affect them.”