Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has underscored the importance of education in ensuring that people appreciate and embrace the use of Family Planning concepts in addressing the Millennium Development Goals 4&5.
He said: “We cannot impose on our people contraceptive methods, but should explain to convince them that they are responsible for the number of children they give birth to in terms of providing them with quality education, health, shelter and all the necessary basic needs in life.”
This, he added, would in turn enable them to value the essence of Family Planning and the need for them to adopt it to space their births.
Speaking at the opening of a three day 2nd International Conference on Family Planning being held in Dakar, the Senegalese President said adolescence, who constituted a greater percentage of the world population, should not be ignored but involved in all decision making concerning their reproductive lives.
“If we do so they become more responsible for their lives and will automatically resort to Family Planning.”
The three-day conference being attended by over 2,200 researchers, program managers, clinicians, parliamentarians, policy makers and jurists, is to share research, best practices, and progress on national strategies to deliver Family Planning services, with the ultimate goal being universal access to family planning.
They will also examine cutting edge research and programs that are helping to advance the health and wealth of families and nations worldwide.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Government of Senegal’s Ministry of Health and Prevention, along with international bodies such as UNFPA, World Bank, World Health Organisation and USAID are co-hosting the conference on “Family Planning: Research and Best Practices”.
President Wade, who enumerated some of the policies put in place by his government to ensure that women were given all the necessary attention, support and empowerment to improve the health and lives of women, said family should be decentralized and urged all to join resources in making it a reality.
He expressed concern about the fact that Africa population lagged behind in growth rate and called on African leaders to put in place measures and resources to save the lives of women, improve the health and ensure better living standards of the people.
Dr Babatunde Osotiemhin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said one third of maternal deaths worldwide could be prevented if unmet needs of Family Planning were to be eliminated.
He said it was unfortunate that 215 million women, who wanted to avoid or delay pregnancy, did not have access to modern contraception, causing life threatening consequences.
He explained that satisfying the unmet needs of developing countries was essential and would cost 3.6 billion dollars, “but investment would actually lower the cost of providing maternal and newborn health services by 5.1 billion dollars resulting in a net total savings of 1.5 billion dollars” he added.
Dr Osotiemhin expressed the need to serve the reproductive health needs of young people and called on countries do design programmes that reach young people in their own terms and serve their specific needs.
He reiterated the need to empower the people with education since “when people have the knowledge they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families”.
The UNFPA Executive Director called for the need to galvanise greater political and financial support, hold governments accountable for their commitments and champion innovation and access to meet the global demand of Family Planning.
He said Family Planning should be nationally designed and owned and commitment needs must turned from words to action, adding “there are encouraging trends in funding and the remaining gaps must be closed, not only by international aid donors but also by countries themselves”.
Ms Melinda Gates in a video message said Family Planning did not only save and improve the lives of women and children but empower people, strengthen health systems and reduce poverty.
“Family Planning allows women and couples to determine the number, timing and spacing of their children and had to be an integral part of reproductive and maternal health programs since “wanted pregnancies are healthier pregnancies”.
She urged governments to invest in that sector and that increasing access to voluntary Family Planning could prevent up to one in three maternal deaths and one in one child deaths.
“This is critical to achieving all the MDGs especially 4 and 5 since 358,000 women die each year from pregnancy related complications”.
A statement read on behalf of Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State, said Family Planning was a basic human right and couples to have the information and means to decide freely and responsibly the number, timing and spacing of their children.
She expressed the commitment of US through the Global Health initiative to avert maternal deaths and disability and pledged US’s continuous support in fighting for the lives of women and ensuring that young obys and girls of today lived in a tomorrow that had great promise.
The First Lady of Burkina Faso, Chantel Campore called on appropriate authorities to invest in Family Planning and join forces in ending maternal and child deaths.
Ms Souadou Ndoye and Mohammed Barry, who represented the youth, called for the need to involve them in policies and decisions making since they would be in a better position to take decisions that concerned them.