|Govt to improve access to family planning|
|Wednesday, 18 July 2012 00:00|
ABOUT 211 000 married women, especially in rural areas, who want to avoid or delay pregnancies are failing to do so as they fail to access any method of family planning. This has prompted Government to consider scrapping user fees, among other barriers.
Other obstacles prohibiting women from spacing their children as desired, include lack of knowledge, unavailability of the contraceptives, their side effects and a limited range of contraceptives.
Speaking at the World Population Day commemorations in Harare last week, Health and Child Welfare principal director for prevention services Dr Gibson Mhlanga said Government was committed to ensuring that women and girls have greater access to quality sexual and reproductive health services.
“Specifically, we will review policies and strategies to support improved access for women and girls from the poorest wealth quintiles and we will remove user fees for family planning services by 2013,” Dr Mhlanga said.
He said Government was looking forward to reducing the unmet need of family planning from the current 13 percent to 6,5 percent and to increase the use of modern contraceptives from 59 percent to 68 percent by 2020.
Dr Mhlanga said if this goal is achieved, it is expected to avert an estimated 780 000 unintended pregnancies, 110 500 unsafe abortions and 4 200 maternal deaths by 2020.
He said Government was also looking forward to increasing the proportion of the health budget allocated towards family planning services.
This includes the procurement of contraceptive commodities from 1,7 percent to 3 percent.
“We will increase investment in other innovative health financing schemes, such as voucher programmes, with the aim of improving the provision of quality services and enable more equitable access,” Dr Mhlanga said.
He said a national campaign would be carried out to raise awareness of family planning, especially among adolescents.
Rural young women aged between 15 and 19 years are twice as likely to fall pregnant than their urban counterparts.
According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (2010/2011), an estimated 30 percent of maternal deaths result from unintended pregnancies.
The survey estimates that 10 women die daily in Zimbabwe due to pregnancy-related complications.
United Nations Population Fund representative Dr Basile Tambashe said family planning was a basic human right and efforts should be put in place to ensure that there is availability of a wide range of family planning methods.
“The focus, therefore, is on the urgent need to re-energise family planning programmes including their integration within comprehensive reproductive health services,” Dr Tambashe said.
Dr Tambashe said with the right policies, adequate funding and strong political commitment, universal access to voluntary family planning services can yield results.
“When a woman can plan her pregnancies, she is able to plan her life and make decisions. She can educate herself, join the labour force and be recognised as an equal member of society,” Dr Tambashe said.
The World Population Day is observed every year on July 11 to give visibility to population issues in the context of development plans and programmes.
This year’s commemorations ran under the theme “Universal access to reproductive health services”.