Uganda promoting vasectomies in bid to tackle poverty

The Ugandan government has started recruiting “champion men” to promote vasectomies as a method of family planning as high fertility rates continue to plague the African nation.

"Many people think that when a man goes for a vasectomy he is not going to continue being a normal man," said Martin Owor, a father of six. "But there is no problem. My wife is very happy."

Owor said his wife initially objected to him having the procedure, but after a long conversation, he decided to go ahead, hoping it will help his children avoid living in poverty.

"My father had 12 children, so we never had a chance of having a quality education," he said. "I needed a number that I would try to manage."

The so-called “champion men” speak out publicly as the government tries to increase men’s participation in family planning to decrease birth rates.

"We can't coerce them, because family planning is voluntary and is supposed to be based on human rights, and we want to keep on engaging them," said Placid Mihayo, an assistant government commissioner in charge of sexual and reproductive health.

Uganda has long tried to tackle its booming population, with development experts suggesting the high fertility rate is an obstacle in combating poverty.

The population reportedly skyrocketed from 17 million in 1990 to more than 41 million in 2016. The United Nations figures put Uganda as the world’s top 10 fastest-growing population. The country remains one of the poorest in the world, with only $615 per capita income per year, with even lower incomes recorded in rural areas.

"If you produce 100 children and create only two jobs in that period, so where are the other 98 going to get jobs?" said Sam Mwandara, project coordinator for Reproductive Health Uganda, a U.N.-associated group. "The population is expanding so fast in relation to land, jobs, education and health. So it's alarming."

The increasing demographics are facilitated by the fact that only 35 percent of married women use modern methods of contraception. Abortion remains illegal in Uganda, with the only exception being to save the woman’s life.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.