Why Africa Must Reposition Family Planning

Brazzaville, 30 August 2004 -- African countries must reposition family planning services if they are to significantly reduce maternal mortality in the region, the World Health Organization (WHO) says in a report.

"Access to affordable, high-quality family planning services is one of the most important interventions to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality, reduce poverty, and promote sustainable development" WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Ebrahim Samba, says in the report. The report is to be discussed at the fifty-fourth session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa scheduled for 30 August to 3 September in Brazzaville, Congo.

"Reducing unwanted pregnancies significantly lowers the number of maternal deaths", Dr Samba says, noting that every year, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 12 million of the world's unwanted or unplanned pregnancies and 40% of pregnancy-related deaths. Nearly 700,000 pregnancy-related deaths are recorded worldwide every year, and 400,000 of these are attributable to complications resulting from unsafe abortions.

Dr Samba states that effective family planning services are critical for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals related to the reduction of maternal and child deaths.

He points out that Africa faces a number of challenges in its quest to meet the family planning needs of its population. 

Among these are weak health systems, poor access to family planning commodities, lack of user-friendly services for sexually active and married adolescents, cultural beliefs and religious barriers, including the non-involvement of men in family planning interventions, and inefficient utilization of resources.

To meet these challenges, Dr Samba proposes measures which Member States can take to revitalize the family planning component of their national reproductive health programmes in order to ensure a comprehensive approach to improving maternal and child health.

"In the next ten years", he says, "the main interventions will include advocacy for putting family planning on the agenda of all sectors and improving access to all services. Other interventions include strengthening national capacity for sustainable programmes, strengthening community participation, addressing family planning needs of vulnerable populations and conducting operations research".

Concluding, he says that WHO and its partners will assist Member States in collecting evidence on client satisfaction, cost, cost-effectiveness and socio-economic benefits of family planning. They will also support countries to adapt and implement guidelines and tools for capacity building.


For further information: 

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Samuel T. Ajibola

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Dr D. Oluwole

Tel : +47 241 39478

Email: oluwoled [at] afro.who.int