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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid