I’m excited to be reporting back from Kampala, Uganda, where a team from PAI is participating in the Eastern Africa Reproductive Health Network’s (EARHN) Annual Coordination meeting. This unique network consists of six member states (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi) who have come together to influence policies and funding for reproductive health in their respective countries.
On our first day here, Dr. Peter Njoroge from the East African Community told a story about visiting a rural village in Tanzania where people were so desperate for contraceptives that they were using plastic baggies as condoms – even though condoms were available in the capital, they didn’t have any way to get them to the country. When I looked around the room, nearly every head was nodding knowingly. This is the sort of unbelievable story that you hear all the time in this region. Men and women throughout Eastern Africa can’t access the reproductive health supplies that stock the shelves of nearly every convenience store in the United States. EARHN is part of the effort to make stockouts like this a thing of the past.
The task for this meeting is to develop a strategic plan for the group, replacing one written six years ago. Writing a strategic plan is a long, daunting task for any organization; trying to write one in three days for a network of six states with such different interests and backgrounds is even more difficult. It’s a testament to the dedication and commitment that these nations have made to improving reproductive health in the region that we are here and, as we closed our second day of work today, we’ve already made extraordinary progress.
It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you gather together dozens of experts from throughout East Africa, each dedicated to improving the lives of men, women and children in the region. I’m proud to be a part of this.