Report decries lopsided access to family planning

10Apr 2016
Devota Mwachang'a
Guardian On Sunday
Report decries lopsided access to family planning

THERE is high inequality in access to family planning (FP) in Tanzania whereby 27 per cent of women of reproductive age use modern FP methods while 25 per cent of married women are unable to access them.

This is one of the findings of a report released recently in Dar es Salaam by Tanzania Coalition for Demographic Awareness and Action during a seminar conducted for journalists on FP in collaboration with the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) and Marie Stopes.

Maria Stopes Head of External Relations Leo Brant revealed that the number of unmarried women needing the services was also high as 44 per cent of them experienced pregnancy by the age of 19.

“Mara region is among regions with unequal access to FP where only 9.6 per cent of women access the service compared to 50.3 in Kilimanjaro region,” he said.

He urged the government to ensure FP education was recognized and treated as a key component of a well-resourced national strategy to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths.

For her part, Head of the Advanced Family Planning Project Halima Shariff urged the government to elevate the status of FP in national strategies for economic growth, including the National Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (Mkukuta/Mkuza) and the upcoming National Development Plan 2016-2020.

“We recommend the government to ensure the ministry of Education, Science and Technology implements a strategy to improve education about Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools and is supportive of reproductive health providers who seek to empower young people with access to information and services,” she said.

She said the government had set ambitious goals for improving access to all methods of family planning up to 60 per cent of women of reproductive age by 2020.

She said the World Health Organization estimated that in countries where access to family planning was low, maternal mortality could be reduced by 25-40 per cent by providing universal access to FP.

According to her, the cost of preventing a pregnancy was far lower than the cost of treating a complication in childbirth, making FP a highly cost-effective intervention in the country.

She said FP was recognized by the ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Children and Elderly as a key component of the 2008-2015 National Road Map Strategic Plan to Accelerate Reduction of Maternal, Newborn and Child health –the ‘One Plan’ at time of writing, is set to be included again in the One-Plan II 2016-2020.

She added that FP was almost universally recognized as a key strategy for improving maternal and newborn health but its advantages go far beyond that family planning can also play a key role in supporting Tanzania’s economic growth and in empowering women.