Proper family planning initiatives to promote country’s economy

Despite various government initiatives designed to boost the health sector in the country, there have been challenges affecting the supply of contraceptives at a few health centres, which offer family planning services, especially in rural areas. James Mlali, project implementation manager at the Tanzania Communication and Development Center (TCDC), shared these observations while addressing the media over the weekend.

Mlali said the challenges are due to insufficient budget allocated towards family planning initiatives, something which has contributed to many Tanzanians failing to use family planning adequately, particularly those residing in rural areas. Mlali added that TCDC, together with key family planning stakeholders, has been pushing for a budget increase for the health sector and specifically on family planning in order to push for increased use of modern family planning methods.

“Unless the government sees the importance of family planning, society will always be faced with countless challenges, such as poverty and lack of education for most who live in rural areas. When people lack family planning methods, then there is no proper control of birth. This, according to Mlali, increases the number of dependents within a family. “When you have many dependents in a family, most of the income is used to feed them meaning other areas will not be developed or pursued,” Mlali added.

Since Tanzania gained independence more than five decades ago, most people living in rural areas continue to be affected by poverty to this present day. This is mainly due to the fact that most people in households depend on one person, either the father or mother. In addition, most productive people in rural areas are women and when these women birth and raise children every now and then, without proper of family planning, the household remains trapped in a cycle of poverty. This is the unfortunate predicament facing many rural households that are faced with increasingly more mouths to feed and lower levels of income, which inevitably increases poverty levels of rural families, said Mlali.

He added that for the country to achieve the industrialization drive, it is important for the country to invest heavily on family planning. In addition, the government must also make sure that the increase in population go hand-in-hand with the available resources and economic situation of the country. Mlali further explained this scenario by adding that we can have a high population, but again as a country, are we producing enough to cater to the population? If we look at the example of post-secondary education, are graduates getting employment opportunities after completing school? Mlali asked. This is an important aspect to consider particularly given the close correlation between employment and economic growth.

‘When a country attains a middle economy, it is important for the people to depend on themselves economically.” This is very important and it is precisely where our country should focus on, Mlali concluded.

 

Global Family Planning movement re-energized

The London Summit on Family Planning ended on July 11th with at least 49 countries committing to improve family planning services, and many more are making commitments towards attaining the 120 million more users by 2020 – a goal set in 2012.

The family planning movement gained an impetus at the first London Summit five years ago, and today the landscape has changed; the global community has accumulated a number of lessons, substantive data and evidence, strengthened supply chains, and stronger partnerships.

Committing countries – 38 prior to the second London Summit – are not only committing domestic resources to family planning, but also mobilizing leadership at national, sub-national level, and enlisting cultural, religious and influential leaders to rally communities behind family planning.

“In 2012, the goal was purposefully set high: 120 million reached with family planning information, services, and supplies,” said Melinda Gates during a plenary session. And the Summit was a demonstration of collective accountability and a reflection of increased dedication to the cause.

The global community remains optimistic, and re-energized to accelerate progress to attaining voluntary, quality family planning services, despite reaching 30.4 million women thus far. The gathering witnessed a number of commitments made: a total of 64 new policy and financial commitments in developing countries, donors, civil society organizations, and private companies; USD1.5 billion in new financial commitments by countries in Africa and Asia, USD 660 million in new donor financing, and USD 19 million in new private sector commitments.

Reframing family planning within the sexual and reproductive health agenda would bring in a cross section of actors to work towards the goal, but most importantly, situate family planning as a tool to alleviate poverty. A number of speakers at the Summit reframed family planning as an anti-poverty intervention, a message likely to resonate with most governments especially in developing countries.

So as the dust settles after the Summit, all actors – donors, governments, private corporates, CSOs – are now challenged with putting the commitments to action, building on the work done so far, and more strongly, using the generated evidence towards implementing more effective interventions.

Photo caption: From left to right: Dr. Natalia Kanem, Acting Executive Director, UNFPA; Hon. Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie for Canada; Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng (Achang), Minister of Health, Uganda; and Melinda Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Parliamentarians vow to support family planning

In marking the International Women’s Day this month, the Tanzania Parliamentary Association on Population and Development (TPAPD) proclaimed its commitment to make family planning a priority development agenda at all forums.

The legislators expressed concern over the current high population growth of 2.7 per cent per annum, and a slow growth in contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) of 32%. TPAPD issued the Declaration of Commitment during its executive committee meeting held in Dar es Salaam recently to discuss family planning and development.

In the Declaration, that TPAPD Chairperson Hon Dr. Mary Mwanjelwa signed, the association committed to prioritize family planning issues in parliament, at constituency, council and community level forums, and at all events to enhance public and leadership understanding of the benefits of family planning on health and socio-economic development.

TPAPD noted with concern the country’s high fertility rate of 5.2 children per woman in reproductive age, a slow growing CPR, and an increasing teenage pregnancy rate of 27% (2015) from 23% contraceptive prevalence rate of 32%, and re-affirmed its dedication towards realizing universal access to voluntary quality family planning information and services in Tanzania.

Family planning is a pre-requisite to enabling the country to manage high fertility that often generates high dependency and accentuates poverty, further frustrating the country’s efforts to achieve its Vision 2025 Goal of a high-quality livelihood for the people, and a strong and competitive economy.

About 65 percent of the country’s population is under the age of 25, and adolescents and youth had little or no access to information, contraceptives, and services, hence exposing them to risks associated with poor reproductive health status. TPAPD stressed that young people ought to be empowered with information and services to enable them to make informed decisions on reproductive health issues including family planning.

Tanzania Health and Demographic Survey (2015-16) says that increased use of family planning has the potential of about 44% to contribute towards lowering the country’s high maternal mortality rate (MMR) of 556 per 100,000 live births and attaining the target of 293 MMR by 2020; as well in reducing child deaths by about 35%.

TPAPD acknowledged the progress made thus far to advance family planning by placing it at the core of the RMNCAH also known as One Plan II, and acknowledge the government’s sustained efforts in the provision of quality family planning services in an integrated manner, as well as the budgetary allocations being made both at national and at council level.

TPAPD, Dr. Mwanjelwa said, shall continue to catalyze the process and build on the current achievements so that family planning becomes a critical agenda in development planning.

An electronic copy of the TPAPD Declaration of Commitment (2017) is available here.