Dr Ismail Ndifuna, the Chief Technical Specialist for Maternal Health and Family Planning, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), has called on the Government to position family planning at its right place in development planning.
That, he said, would call for attention being focused on family planning as a development intervention, and on increased investments in ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health.
Dr Ndifuna was speaking at the launch of the 2018 Family Planning Week and the World Contraceptive Day in Accra on Wednesday, on the theme: “Family Planning, Everyone’s Responsibility.”
He said Family Planning was a critical pillar in the Demographic Dividend Framework as it was a tool for the demographic transition from high fertility and child mortality to low fertility and reduced child mortality.
He said health benefits of family planning were now increasingly getting clearer to policy makers and the general population, thanks to awareness programmes by government and partners, which had resulted in reduced maternal and child mortality.
Dr Ndifuna noted that what was perhaps less appreciated was the recognition of family planning as a human right-including the right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of children and the right to have the means to make that decision.
He said to promote family planning as a right called for investments in the health system including the human resource and skills to deliver services, ensuring availability of medical technologies, commodities and supplies including contraceptives and above all the ensuring the sustainable financing for family planning programmes and universal access to quality services.
“Currently the fertility rate has gone down, contraceptive use has increased, antenatal care coverage is universal, skilled attendance at birth and health facility delivery have gone up,” Dr Ndifuna said.
Contraceptive prevalence rate, he said, was also higher in rural areas than in urban areas, an indication that government’s community-based health planning and services (CHPS) and task shifting policies were producing positive results.
Dr Ndifuna stated that even though some successes had been chalked, on the flip side there were challenges that called for further attention and investment to achieve the government’s own set goals.
He said at 34 per cent, unmet needs for family planning was still very high, while geographical disparities in access still existed, and in essence pulling down governments overall gains.
“We are still grappling with quality of care issues, which, if not well addressed, will continue frustrating family planning acceptance”.
He said clinical methods of family planning were still not covered in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), increasing out of pocket expenditures and decreasing access.
He said the marginalised groups, including people with disabilities, had critical access, which were still not addressed.
“We still need to ‘up the game’ in accountability for results, for resources and for rights. We need to ‘up the game’ in monitoring, tracking, and delivering on the family planning 2020 commitments made by government in London in 2012 and reaffirmed at the 2017 London summit,” he stated.
Dr Ndifuna said there was the need to consistently make the point to decision makers, including the Ministry of Finance, that investment in family planning had a multiplier effect across all the Sustainable Development Goals, and to demonstrate this benefit if necessary, through scientific modelling.
He pledged the commitment of the UN Systems in Ghana to presenting a ‘One programme’ that encompasses the entirety of its activities.
He said this programme would be implemented through annual joint work plans agreed with ministries and agencies and carried out with implementing partners in government, civil society, and other entities.
Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, launched the celebrations to officially begin a weeklong- activities by several stakeholders across the country.
The celebrations aim at increasing public awareness and highlighting the benefits of family planning not only to the individual but to families, communities and the country as a whole.