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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid