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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid