Accra, Feb. 14, GNA - Seven international institutions are collaborating to develop a strategic plan that would assist West African countries reposition family planning in the mainstream agenda of all health and health related programmes.
The West African Health Organisation (WAHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Africa Regional Office and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the WHO office in Ghana are some of the institutions working to address what they describe as the 'unmet need' for family planning.
The institutions are therefore organising an international conference beginning Tuesday February 15, to develop effective strategies aimed to address the 'unmet need', which has been identified as a great threat to national health and development goals. As a prelude to the conference, the institutions, which also include Ghana's Ministry of Health, the Action for West Africa Region-Reproductive Health (AWARE-RH) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) met Journalists from the West African Sub-Region on Monday to solicit their assistance in creating awareness on family planning.
Representatives of the institutions said they recognised the media as a mouthpiece and an effective collaborator in their quest to create awareness on family planning and urged practitioners to develop interpersonal strategies for their campaign.
Organisers of the conference said they also hoped to allow participating countries to share experiences and knowledge on barriers to family planning use, policies, programmes, resources, advocacy and other issues.
The conference's reference background was derived from the fact that nearly 39 million unintended pregnancies occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa in the past six years and 12 million of these cases occurred in West Africa.
However, donor focus and governmental resources had not supported the increased need for family planning.
Statistics collated by the organisers of the conference indicated that human toll of the unintended pregnancies was enormous and was reflected in deaths and disabilities among women and girls, higher infant mortality rates and a burden on families in coping with the related health and economic costs.
It also indicated that unintended and ill-timed pregnancies also fuelled a high rate of population growth that outpaced the capacity of governments to respond to the needs of their citizens and to meet their socio-economic development goals.
"This unmet need for family planning is a serious threat to national and regional health objectives and the ability to meet the Millennium Development Goals."
Presenting Ghana's position on the issue on behalf of the Sector Minister, Dr Kofi Ahmed, Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health, said the nation's family planning major programme was incorporated into the population policy of 1969 and was being implemented as an integral part of the maternal and child health services and administered in the context of primary health care. The policy was revised in 1994.
Dr Ahmed said the Ministry was collaborating with the National Population Council and different stakeholders in the public sector and private sector organisations as well as non-governmental organisations in the quest to achieve higher family planning practices in Ghana. The nation had also taken contraceptive security seriously since May 2002; had also set up an Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee on Contraceptive Security and adopted a National Contraceptive Security Strategy covering the period 2004 to 2010.
Dr Ahmed said Ghana had taken the lead since 2003 by contributing 280,000 dollars annually towards the procurement of contraceptives. In 2004 the contraceptive financing requirements excluding contributions from the commercial sector was 6.4 million dollars but the World Bank bridged the gap by contributing 1.5 million dollars. Dr Ahmed said so far, the Ghana Demographic Health Surveys showed an increase in the trend of contraceptive use.
Since 1988, the use of modern contraceptive among married women had increased from five per cent in 1988 to 19 per cent in 2003 while total fertility rates had decreased from 6.4 to 4.4.
"While this appears to be the highest in West Africa (excluding Cape Verde), we are not complacent but need to address the persistently high unmet need of 34 per cent with all seriousness," Dr Ahmed said.
Speakers at the press briefing including Dr Kaba Joiner, Director General of WAHO; Ms Margaret Neuse, Director of Population and Reproductive Health, USAID; Dr Issakha Diallo, Director, the Advance Africa Project; Dr Wilfred Ochan, Medical Officer, IPPF and Mr Felix Awantang, Health Officer of USAID's West Africa Regional Programme. They all agreed that any shift in family planning, whether negative or positive had an impact on all aspects of development.
They, therefore, urged all stakeholders to show commitment to address concerns in the area and pledged the support of their various organisations to the success of the new zeal and consensus to create awareness and to ensure that citizens of member countries practised family planning.