“What brings us together… is our belief that people have a right to influence the public choices that shape our lives. Public budgets are the chief instruments by which governments make these decisions and civil society the greatest tool to ensure that people are part of that process.” Jim Shultz, Democracy Center in Bolivia, at the International Budget Partnership (IBP)’s third conference, 2001 said.
Every person in the world has basic human rights, including the right to health. It’s the obligation of the state to provide for these rights, for which citizens may hold their government to account. Citizens also have a right to influence government decisions about how public resources are spent, both across sectors and within each sector.
It is against this background that UYAHF organized a two days’ National Health Budget Analysis workshop for adolescent and youth activists and advocates at Grand Global hotel in Kampala to orient young people in understanding the planning processes of Uganda’s budget with particular interest on the health sector budget.
The workshop was organized under the theme; “Building capacity of young people in budget advocacy to enhance advocacy and accountability for equitable and adequate adolescent health financing.”, provided young people an opportunity to analyze the health sector budget track previous allocations and expenditures on adolescent health, highlight gaps in adolescent health financing make key recommendations for prioritizing and improving adolescent health financing.
The team analyzed Uganda’s global, regional and national level health commitments such as; the Reproductive Maternal Newborn and Child Health Investiment Case, the Family Planning 2020 Commitments, the Costed Implementation Plan for Family Planning, the National Adolescent Health Policy, the National SRHR guidelines of 2014 visa vie commitments on improving maternal health, universal health coverage, and universal access to Sexual Reproductive Health in relation to how much the National budgets have committed financial resources to achieve these commitments.
Uganda’s public expenditure on health and social service delivery currently falls short of international, regional, and domestic targets.
Uganda’s commitment to the well-being of its citizens is demonstrated by its investments in health. Public spending on health care has many benefits; it increases access to high-quality services, skilled workers, and medicines that save lives.
Health investments also bolster economic growth, complement national security goals, and enable communities and families to be productive and successful.
Unfortunately, inadequate investment in Uganda’s health sector hampers the delivery of high-quality services, resulting in weak health outcomes and a significant financial burden for the poor. The government currently invests only US$10 per person on health-related costs, which is well below the World Health Organization recommendation of US$44 per person.
Meanwhile, despite being a signatory to the 2000 Abuja Declaration—an African Union pledge to allocate 15 percent of national budgets to health by 2015—Uganda allocated only 7.8 percent of its budget to health in 2015. And while the country’s 2015–2020 Health Sector Development Plan estimates the total resources needed over five years as approximately US$15.5 million, planned investments are projected to cover less than 20 percent of that cost.
Patrick Mwesigwa, the UYAHF Team Leader noted that; the worst state of Uganda’s health sector has been felt more by the young people who make up majority of the population.
“Our young people continue to face the pain of the rising HIV infection among teenage girls, the sky rocketing teenage pregnancies (25%) and child marriages which also account the highest in Africa. Majority of these pregnancies result into unsafe abortions which expose our girls to the risk of maternal mortality and disability”.
Patrick also noted that; Uganda has one of Africa’s highest unmet need for family planning for adolescents ages, 15-19 estimated at 30.4% with total demand of 52.3% and unmet need of 29.3% for young women 20-24 years with a total demand of 63.3%.
But how did the training change trainees understanding of advocacy skills?
Phiona Walimuchan, a staff with Uganda Youth Alliance for Family Planning and health said that the training was action packed with frequent interaction with the facilitators which with made understanding things easier.
“I really had no knowledge about budget advocacy and yet our job is to advocate but this is impossible with no knowledge of the exact areas of advocacy. I would like to see more finances in youth friendly services and family planning because most of the youth engage in early sex leading to teenage pregnancies and HIV.” she noted
Christopher Ssenoga, a Data Clerk and peer educator at Naguru Teenage Center said; the training exposed him to the budgetary system process and mastered how to advocate powerfully using the figures obtained from the budget analysis and tracking.
“It has raised my interest in understanding the government areas of interest comparing their budgets with those of adolescents’ health. I however, appeal to government to increase the budget on adolescent health by funding more media campaigns on teenage pregnancies and should make contraceptives available.”
Jennifer Achiro, the Programs Officer at Sensitize Uganda said that, the training elevated her knowledge in understanding budget advocacy and linking global and national level commitments.
“This training has taken me to a national level and beyond. I can now interpret ministerial statements easily because I have been trained. From this training, i have realized that the government has not really budgeted for the youth friendly services adequately and this has to change. It will be key area of interest for advocacy.”