Population Day highlights relevance of family planning
Around the world, some 225 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for reasons ranging from lack of access to information or services to lack of support from their partners or communities.
Most of these women with an unmet demand for contraceptives live in 69 of the poorest countries on earth.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right and has the power to boost the development of entire countries. It is also central to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and is a key factor in reducing poverty, in addition to saving lives.
Various events took place around the world yesterday to highlight progress towards expanding access to family planning and chart a path forward for accelerating progress to mark World Population Planning Day. The climax of the 2017 celebration is the Family Planning Summit, the second meeting of the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) initiative, which aims to expand access to voluntary family planning to 120 million additional women by 2020.
Family planning summit
On Tuesday, July 11, countries, policy makers, donors, advocates and representatives of civil society organisations gathered at the Family Planning Summit 2017 in London to catalyse efforts that ensure more women and girls around the world are able to plan when and how often they get pregnant.
Organised by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK DFID), the summit co-hosted a global summit on family planning in London with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in collaboration with FP2020 and in close partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Global Affairs Canada to re-energise global commitment to one of the “best buys” in development: rights-based family planning programmes.
In Ghana, the National Population Council (NPC) marked the 2017 World Population Day with a call on families to adopt family planning practices to reduce poverty and sustain development.
The event which took place in Accra yesterday on the theme, “Family planning: healthy people for sustainable national development,” was organised by the NPC and Ghana Health Service in collaboration with partners UK DFID, UNFPA and USAID.
The use of contraceptives
In her address, the Executive Director of the NPC, Dr Adelaide Leticia Appiah, said it was important to encourage individuals to have the number of children their finances could comfortably cater for through the use of contraceptive methods.
Access to family planning had economic dividends for families aside the reduction in fertility, she said, adding that “deliveries should not be too soon, too many, too frequent and too close”.
According to the Ghana Statistical Service, the three regions in the north, which remained the poorest areas in the country, had the highest average number of births to a woman over her reproductive years, with the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions recording total fertility rates of 6.6, 4.9 and 5.2 respectively.
The Commissioner of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Professor Agyemang Badu Akosa, said Ghana had long prioritised family planning as a key strategy for addressing the country’s health, social and economic issues and had made some gains.
For instance, he said the use of modern contraceptive methods had increased fourfold from five per cent to 22 per cent while the use of any other method had increased from 13 per cent to 27 per cent in the past 26 years.
Nonetheless, Prof. Akosa said family planning had been confronted with misconceptions and myths which had discouraged its patronage and uptake among Ghanaians.
He further noted the challenges affecting the implementation of family planning were minimal commitment from the authorities in governance and heavy dependence on international donor support for family planning services.
However, Prof. Akosa said, there was need to intensify advocacy efforts to increase and sustain government ownership and investment in family planning as cost-effective socio-economic development intervention.
Lastly, he recommended a legislative instrument to support the policy on family planning, saying: “Policy makers must consider family planning as an essential ingredient for sustainable development which cannot be ignored.”
Statement from partners
In a statement read by the Deputy Representative of the UNFPA, Ms Erika Godson, she said the World Population Day was set aside for countries to focus on the importance of population and reproductive health issues.
She said access to safe, voluntarily family planning was a human right and was central to gender equality and women’s empowerment, adding that family planning was key to reducing poverty.
In his address, the National Vice Chairman of the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health (GCNH), Mr Bright Amissah Nyarko, appealed to authorities of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to include in their services free planning methods.
The Deputy Country Director of UK DFID, Ms Lynne Henderson, said Ghana was represented at the summit by the Second Lady, Mrs Samira Bawumia, and the Deputy Minister of Health, Mrs Tina Mensah, and were expected to make commitments towards championing family planning in Ghana.