“Most Men Pretend to be Busy…” The Struggle for Male-Partner Involvement in Maternal and Child Health in Post-Conflict Northern Uganda

Session: Gender Equity and Transformation for Improving Maternal Newborn Health

Presenter: Primus Che Chi, Peace Research Institute Oslo
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Background: Northern Uganda is recovering from brutal civil war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, displaced millions, and severely affected maternal and child health (MCH) outcomes. In a bid to improve the situation, local health authorities are advocating for stronger male-partner involvement in MCH. This initiative has however experienced a lot of challenges. This study seeks to explore the barriers to effective male-partner involvement in MCH in Northern Uganda and the strategies utilized by local health promoters and providers to address the situation.

Methods: This is a qualitative exploratory study utilizing semi-structured in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs). Participants were recruited from local health providers and staff of non-governmental organizations working in the domain of MCH in the region. Data were analyzed by thematic analysis.

Results: A total of 22 IDIs and 2 FGDs, involving 35 participants were conducted. The main barriers identified are: lack of time; strong cultural norms and beliefs; poor support for policies and programs focused on male involvement; poor engagement with men who accompany their spouses to the facility; and financial barriers. Strategies main being explored to enhance male-partner involvement are: involving local political and cultural leaders to promote the campaign; instituting regulations that oblige men to accompany their spouses for some pregnancy-related services at the facility; and prioritizing the delivery of maternal services to women who are accompanied by their spouses to the facility.

Conclusions: Poor male-partner involvement in MCH remains a major challenge to improving MCH in Northern Uganda. If substantial gains are to be made, local authorities must invest more resources into male involvement-related activities and develop more innovative approaches to effectively engaging men. These initiatives must equally cater for the health needs of the men.