East African states launch initiative to reactivate family planning services

Policymakers and health campaigners attended the launch of The Challenge Initiative (TCI) which is supported by bilateral donors and foundations to expand access to contraceptives among women of child bearing age in the region.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for planning and devolution, Mwangi Kiunjuri said the launch of a home grown initiative to reactivate family planning services is timely as the east African region grapples with rapid population growth.

“The Challenge Initiative will ensure women have access to modern contraceptives, reduce maternal deaths and enhance women’s participation in economic development in this region,” Kiunjuri said.

Under the new initiative, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzanian governments will commit new resources to expand family planning services in the underserved urban slums and rural areas against a backdrop of declining external support.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided initial funding towards establishment of the TCI that seeks to harness domestic financing to ensure women and girls in poor settings have access to birth control options.

Kiunjuri said Kenya is committed to investing in family planning services to reduce a high number of women having unintended pregnancies.

“It will be mandatory for every county to set a budget for family planning services to complement support from development partners,” said Kiunjuri, adding there is a political goodwill to revitalize family planning services in Kenya.

The uptake of modern contraceptives among women and girls in Kenya stood at 57 percent in 2016 compared to 39 percent and 30 percent in Uganda and Tanzania respectively.

Kiunjuri said the government is committed to addressing inequitable access to birth control options linked to under-investments, cultural taboos, poverty and ignorance.

East African states have prioritized investments in family planning services in order to reap from a demographic dividend.

The Ugandan Minister of State for Health, Sarah Opendi said that universal coverage for modern contraceptives will have spin-off effects on the economy and society in the region.

“By investing in high impact birth control interventions, the health and economic outcomes in this region will be profound,” Opendi said.

She revealed that Uganda aims to achieve 50 percent family planning coverage by 2020 while the east African nation has managed to reduce unmet needs from 34 to 28 percent.