ZIMBABWE has met and surpassed some of its 2020 goals for family planning, with statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care pointing towards a remarkable increase in the uptake of modern contraception.
BY TINOTENDA MUNYUKWI
In 2012, the country made commitments at the London Family Planning Global Summit affirming its recognition of the right to quality reproductive health services for women and children, paving the way for the creation of a National Family Strategy (2016-2020).
Key among the commitments made in 2012 were increasing the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) from 59% to 68%, increase the budget allocation for family planning from 1,7% to 3%, and reduce the unmet need for family planning from 13% to 6,5%.
Currently the country is at 68,5% for the contraceptive prevalence rate surpassing its 2020 target by 0,5%, according to the Health ministry.
Of the modern contraceptive methods being used, there is oral contraceptive (the pill), condoms and implant insertions like jadelle and implanon, whose usage increased from 2% in 2012 to 17% in 2017.
A recent presentation at a media sensitisation workshop on family planning by Brighton Muzavazi from the Ministry of Health cited a raft of interventions which have seen the country grow in modern family planning method prevalence.
“Various interventions have influenced our progress and these include government’s commitment towards family planning through the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) and the engagement of various partners,” Muzavazi said.
“Family planning services are mainly free at health facilities with other charging a minimal fee and there is commodity availability while accessibility stockouts are below 5% for all family planning methods at local facilities.”
The available statistics now indicate that from 2012 there has been an additional 428 000 female users of modern contraception and the total number stands at
2 050 000 users in 2017.
Consequently according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), such competent use of various family planning methods would help the country in saving $14,2 million annually in maternal and child healthcare costs.
Furthermore, an estimated 598 000 unintended pregnancies and 178 000 unsafe abortions will be averted.
The primary goal of effective family planning according to the UNFPA is improving the demographic dividend with the aim of boosting the country’s economic potential.
Current trends as suggested by the country’s population pyramid show that the nation is largely made up of people in the 0 to 14 age bracket, a group which is highly regarded as economically dependent and unproductive.
As such, the overall picture although suggesting that the country is registering growth in family planning, more needs to be done in some of the regions which are stalling behind, in embracing the modern birth control methods.
According to the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey of 2015, Manicaland women had a 57% uptake of modern contraception, which is the lowest in all the country’s provinces.
ZNFPC assistant director for evaluation and research Lovejoy Gamba told NewsDay that there was need for all stakeholders to support qualitative research efforts as a way of unearthing the reasons behind Manicaland’s low uptake of modern contraception and suggest solutions to match such regions with the rest in the country.
“Given the current situation in provinces such as Manicaland, we call on all stakeholders in the country to take on further investigations, as there is a study gap to explore further the reasons for this low uptake. All stakeholders and implementing partners including ZNFPC should come on board,” he said.
Another area which remains in need of intervention is the provision of effective youth-friendly services on family planning, to help the young people access birth control freely without fear of victimisation or discrimination.
Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa said at the 2017 Family Planning Summit in London that there was still need to direct more effort towards providing family planning methods to adolescents.
“Zimbabwe is among the best, if not the best, with the highest CPR in Africa, but we need to look at all the people who have not been reached particularly the young people,” he said.
“This is a very controversial group in Zimbabwe on how far you can go in providing comprehensive sexuality education, so we need to look at them because they are in danger of getting unwanted pregnancies and abortions.”
According to United Nations recommendations, adolescents have the right to receive accurate sexual and reproductive health information and confidential services without discrimination.