News / Africa

    Political Will, Health Concerns Drive Africa's Family Planning

    International Conference Highlights Family Planning in SenegalInternational Conference Highlights Family Planning in Senegal
    x
    International Conference Highlights Family Planning in Senegal
    International Conference Highlights Family Planning in Senegal
    Nico Colombant
    Fertility rates as well as future projected population growth are much higher in Africa than in any other part of the world.  A new report by a Kenyan-based organization says that in some African countries, political will, maternal and child health concerns as well as more and more funding are helping to develop effective family planning.  ,

    Family planning, which aims to regulate the number of children women have, can range from using natural methods to higher use of contraceptives to, more controversially, relying on abortions.

    The Nairobi-based African Institute for Development Policy presented a report called "Africa on the Move!" Tuesday in Washington at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  The subtitle of the report was "The Role of Political Will and Commitment in Improving Access to Family Planning in Africa."

    One of the authors, Violet Murunga, said having a country's top leadership champion the cause of family planning is essential.  She mentioned the important role President Paul Kagame has played in Rwanda.

    "He talks about family planning in public events, and in addition to that, because family planning is entrenched in the governance system, because it is included as a national development priority," said Murunga.

    In recent years, the report notes contraceptive use among married women in Rwanda has risen from about 17 percent to over 50 percent, while fertility rates have fallen.

    Top Rwandan government officials say curbing population growth is important to ensuring the country's continued economic development.

    Another country where fertility rates have been dropping is Ethiopia. The government there has tied family planning promotion to reducing high maternal and child mortality rates.

    Murunga also noted that Malawi's government has for the first time included family planning in its budget, even though the practice was once officially banned in the southern African country. She said it is important for governments to start not only talking about family planning, but also spending on programs for actual implementation.

    "Governments could invest a lot more than they are in family planning and reproductive health programs," she said. "There is an over-reliance on donor funds, but it is changing. African governments are now starting to see the benefits of  actually providing more and more funding."

    Steve McDonald, the host of the event and Africa director at the Wilson Center, said partnerships between governments and religious organizations, which sometimes provide the bulk of health services in remote areas, are also crucial.  He pointed out Rwanda's example, where in some cases family planning health posts have been placed next to Catholic clinics, even if they promote different methods of family planning.

    "Obviously, if they just began setting up services for family planning and ignoring the Catholic church leadership, then it would have been setting the stage for a real battle there," said McDonald. "Instead they engage, they allow them to have their own counseling services, and they have the service for family planning next door, so that everybody agrees on it and no one fights over it."

    Catholic clerics and other religious leaders in Africa oppose the use of contraceptives and abortions to limit family sizes.

    Panelists said other challenges included the very young age at which girls marry in countries such as Niger, where the fertility rate is still estimated to be over seven births per woman.

    Across the Sahel and throughout West and Central Africa, where there has been much less political will on the issue, fertility rates usually remain above six births per woman. Panelists said some politicians view population growth as a way of ensuring their countries' clout [influence] in international organizations.

    However, surveys indicate a majority of Africans want to be able to better control the size of their families.

    By the end of this century, the United Nations estimates that Africa's share of the global population will increase from 12 percent to about one-third.  The U.N. projects the current world population of more than 7 billion people will rise above 10 billion by 2100.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.