Some Members of Parliament were yesterday up in arms against what they termed as the government’s undue attention on reproductive health funding in its development planning, warning that such an attitude could trigger a human crisis in the future.
Contributing to the 2012/2013 national development plan proposal by the Minister in the President’s Office, Relations and Coordination, Stephen Wassira, the Chairperson of the Parliament, Jenister Muhagama said the country cannot make a head-way if it does not prioritise reproductive health.
Mhagama who is the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Community Development Committee said reproductive health and family planning have not featured prominently in both one-year, five-year and the Long Term Perspective Plans.
She argued that increasing budget allocation to family planning could profoundly reduce expenditure on social services as the resultant low population would reduce the demands on government for health care, education and food among others.
Quoting the 2007 UNFPA report on population trends, the MP said investing a dollar on reproductive health could save governments 49 US Dollars which could be used in developing other social services.
Another MP, Dr. Mary Mwanjelwa (Special Seats) challenged the government over conflicting figures concerning the goals of reproductive health. She said while the five-year development plan’s goal is to reduce maternal deaths to 175 for every 100,000 births, the Long Term Perspective Plan which ends in 2016 aims at reducing maternal deaths to 220 per 100,000 births.
“These figures are conflicting, they must be rectified or else we would be back-peddling,” she warned.
In another development a coalition of 11 Tanzania non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are up in arms against government’s non-allocation of funds for family planning commodities in its development plans saying that it is detrimental to the country.
"Family planning that appears in strategic Intervention 3 of Health as a preventive intervention to contribute to reduction of maternal mortality (from 578 to 175 per every 100,000 live births) and under-five mortality (from 112 to 45 to every 100,000 births) by 2015 is not budgeted for," they said recently.
It said no funds are allocated to ensure access and effective delivery of family planning methods and services apart from 15bn/- set aside for service providers' trainings. Family planning constitutes a small part of the training package, as stated in the Plan," to train 8,000 service providers from hospitals and health centers and dispensaries in advanced and basic lifesaving skills, essential newborn care, focus antenatal care, post abortion care.
Others are adolescent reproductive health, family planning, integrated management of childhood illnesses, emergency triage assessment and treatment among others.
In its three-year advocacy work, the Family Planning Coalition has demonstrated value to family planning as a preventive measure in reducing maternal and child mortality, while soliciting policy makers' support in considering the impact of high fertility rate on fledgling economies of countries like Tanzania.
"It is common knowledge that with 42 percent of the population being dependent (15 years and below) and 23 percent aged 15-19 either pregnant to have their first child, Tanzania's dependency ratio will continue to increase," they said in the statement.
The eleven NGOs include among others Chama cha Uzazi na Malezi Bora Tanzania (UMATI), Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP), Tanzania Women Lawyers Association, Medical Women Association of Tanzania (MEWATA), Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA), Advocacy Network on HIV/Aids in Tanzania (ANAT).
Filing the joint statement to the President's Office on behalf of the coalition, the Executive Director of the Human Development Trust, Dr Peter Bujari said the coalition wants the government to place reproductive health as a priority in its five-year development plan prior to the finalization of the plan.
The Plan recognizes MKUKUTA II and Health Sector Specific Strategies to address family planning as a strategy to reduce maternal mortality rate, reduce infant mortality and improve general well being of mothers and children.
"Absence of project interventions and specific budget lines for family planning commodities in the plan matrix would imply that the government has de-prioritized resource mobilization for this area," Dr. Bujari stressed.
He said incorporating family planning funding requirements in the FYDP would avert up to 30 percent of HIV positive infants born by HIV positive mothers, reduce maternal mortality by delaying motherhood, practicing birth spacing, preventing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions.
Others are improving the general health of mothers and children. This he said would enhance national efforts towards attaining MUKUKUTA II targets and MDGs number 4 and 5. In order to reflect the family planning funding requirement in the five-year development plan, the family planning coalition strongly recommends that the National Planning Coasted Implementation Programme (NIPCIP 2010-15) be taken into account.
It has proposed 98.7bn/- for full package of family planning services covering contraceptive security and logistics, capacity building, service delivery, advocacy and management systems.
It has also suggested annual funding estimates as follows- 14.5bn/- for 2010/2011, 14.5bn/- (2011/2012), 15.6bn/-(2012/2013), 16bn/- (2013/2014), 17.5bn/- (2014/2015) and 19.4bn/- (2015/2016.
In Tanzania only 34 in 100 married women are currently using tradition and modern methods of family planning. Rural women have an average of six children each as compared to three children in urban women. Thirty women in 100 in rural areas need to use family planning but cannot access the services, this increased from 24 in 2005.
As a result, maternal mortality rate has remained high at 454/100,000. Family planning saves the lives of women, newborns and adolescents as well as contributes to the nation’s socio-economic development.
It prevents maternal mortality, one of the major concerns addressed by various global and national commitments and reflected the targets of the Millennium Development Goals, Tanzania Vision 2025, the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty and the Primary Health Services Development Programme.
Tanzania is one of the 189 nations which endorsed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September 2000 as part of the internationally agreed-upon development goals at the general Assembly of the United Nations.
The MDGs initiative calls upon developed and developing countries to work in partnership towards a world with less poverty, hunger and disease, greater survival prospects for mothers and infants, guaranteeing basic education for children, equal opportunities for women and healthier environment in support of agenda 21 principles of sustainable development.
The MDGs provide a framework of time-bound targets by which progress can be measured and commitment of all nations tracked. Problems facing family planning in developing countries, Tanzania included are inadequate political support and funding for family planning services.
Winding up the discussion, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda stressed the need for a robust reproductive health strategy that would go hand-in-gloves with the country’s development goals.