LACK of access to family planning services and information among women not only undermines their health and well-being, but also significantly affects their effective participation in income generating activities.
Promotion of family planning services and assurance of access to the preferred contraceptive methods by women and couples are critical to guaranteeing the welfare and autonomy of women while supporting the health and development of communities.
Globally, some 225 million women eager to avoid pregnancy cannot use safe and effective family planning methods due to various reasons, including lack of support from their partners and requisite information. Most of women with unmet needs for contraceptives live in 69 of the poorest countries on the earth.
Women and girls living in rural areas are usually at great risk because they are usually denied basic reproductive health and the right to services and information. They are instead forced to carry pregnancies and give birth in unsafe conditions.
In rural areas, majority women have no access to reproductive health services, sometimes compelled to walk miles to health centres, with cultural norms and lack of skilled service providers complicating the plight of hapless expectant mothers.
In Tanzania, 25 per cent of the sexually active unmarried women aged between 15 and 49 years, have unmet need for family planning while 22 per cent of married women have an unmet need for family planning, according to the Demographic and Healthy Survey of 2015/16.
Four years ago, the global health and development leaders convened in London to take a declarative stance on family planning and make a daring promise to provide voluntary, rights-based family planning to 120 million additional women and girls in the world’s poorest countries by 2020. The Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), a global partnership to catalyse action on this commitment was hatched out of this promise.
A recently released annual progress report ‘Momentum at the Midpoint 2015- 2016’ indicates an increasing demand for family planning commodities and services across Sub-Saharan Africa. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, says the report also reveals some improvements in which for the first time, the number of women and girls using modern contraceptive in the world’s 69 FP2020 focus countries has reached 300 million.
“The data featured in the report reveal noteworthy accomplishments as well as some significant challenges for the partnership...over 30 million additional women and girls now, compared to 2012, can use contraceptives across the 69 focus countries,” he says. The government has increased its budget allocation for family planning to 5bn/- in the 2016/17 against the 1bn/- disbursed for the same purpose in the previous fiscal year. But, family planning and reproductive health are critical issues that can hardly be handled by the government alone.
The involvement of other partners, especially the private sector, is inevitable. Owing to high service demand, it will take more than funding alone to meet the growing need for contraceptives. The supply chain that moves family planning products into the hands of the needy women is a crucial link that should be secured and strengthened.
Readily available and reliable data collected by various sources are key to allowing the country to explore and come up with better ways that can assist the government to reach more women and men, and particularly the marginalised groups, including the youth and rural populations.
Cultural and religious taboos must also be addressed in certain communities for all people to ably access modern contraceptive methods of their choice. Should as many women as possible have access to the services, they will know how to plan and when best to have children.