Dar es Salaam. In a bid to reduce maternal and child deaths, the government plans to expand access to life saving family planning to 4.2 million more women and girls by 2020.
“By 2020, the government is committed to increasing its modern contraceptive prevalence rate to 45 per cent,” said minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, the Elderly and Children Ummy Mwalimu.
This is among the commitments Tanzania will make at the Family Planning Summit in London on Tuesday next week. The July 11 high-level meeting to be co-hosted by the UK government, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will take place on the 5th anniversary of the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, where then President Jakaya Kikwete and other world leaders promised to expand family planning access to an additional 120 million women and girls in the poorest countries by 2020. President Kikwete promised to ensure 60 per cent of women had access to family planning by 2015, a target that was not reached. Only 32 per cent of the women were reached.
The minister, who will be represented at the summit by the director of preventive services at the ministry, Dr Neema Rusibamayila, said hindrances to family planning included ignorance, inadequate service provision due to lack of expertise in provision of methods such as implants and permanent methods, long distances to health facilities as well as inadequate outreach services to reach the 60 per cent target. “To address these bottlenecks, we educate the community on the importance of family planning through the re-launch of a green star campaign, capacity building to health care providers and improvement of a family planning supply chain. We will also strengthen outreach services to take services closer to people,” said the minister.
Since 2012, about 800,000 more women of reproductive age are using modern contraceptions. The country’s efforts have since prevented more than four million unintended pregnancies and 1.2 million unsafe abortions. Today, more than a third of married women of reproductive age are using a modern contraceptive method, which experts say is an important step to reaching the goal of 45 per cent users by 2020.
“We have also established centres, which offer youth-friendly services all over the country. Currently, 39 per cent of the youth aged 10-24 years and 11 per cent of adolescents aged 10-19 years are using modern contraceptives,” the minister said.
The government will also commit to increasing family planning budget to 35 per cent by 2020.
and ensure at least 75 per cent of districts have institutionalised integrated community health services.
In the 2017/18 financial year, the government has increased its budget allocation for family planning supplies to Sh14 billion, about three times more than the Sh5 billion that was budgeted in the previous financial year.
Given the current maternal mortality rate, which stands at 556 per 100,000 live births, 10,564 women die due to pregnancy related complications every year, 880 every month and 29 every day, which the minister says is not acceptable.
However, the minister is optimistic the deaths will go down since family planning services are available all over the country at all levels of care, thanks, acording to the minister, to good cooperation with development partners.
She called upon all Tanzanians, especially women, to use family planning services effectively to reduce maternal deaths. She also urged development partners to continue offering support in the procurement of family planning supplies and capacity building to health care providers.