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15.02.2005 General News

Minister urges developing countries to produce their own materials

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Accra, Feb. 15, GNA - Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health on Tuesday urged developing countries to strive to produce materials, such as condoms, that aided preventive healthcare in order to channel the resources for their procurement into other sectors.

Opening the conference on Repositioning Family Planning in West Africa in Accra, the Minister said in 2004, contraceptive-financing requirements alone, excluding the commercial sector, was 6.4 million dollars.

Government provided 280,000 dollars while the World Bank provided 1.5 million dollars to meet part of the requirement for the year. "My question is have the results justified the expenditure. Those who spent the money will say yes but we don't understand," Major Quashigah said.

"We are still procuring and not developing and producing our own. We are still procuring condoms, insecticides, treated nets etc. Some countries in Africa have become huge procurement agencies procuring everything up to food they can produce."

Major Quashigah said Ghana was still relying tremendously on development partners for funding and mentioned the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the British Department for International Development (DFID) for their continued support in that area.

DFID for instance has agreed to fund procurement of male condoms for family planning and national AIDS control efforts from 2002 to 2006. The Ghana Social Marketing Programme and the (United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) are also assisting in procurement arrangements for some of the contraceptive commodities.

The West African Health Organisation, World Health Organisation, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the UNFPA are organising the four-day conference with sponsorship from USAID. The conference aims to move family planning higher on national agendas and ensure access to quality family planning services, which have been identified as key objectives of repositioning family planning strategies.

About 300 participants from Ghana; Mali; Burkina Faso; Chad; C=F4te d'Ivoire; Guinea; Madagascar; Niger; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone and Togo are attending.

Major Quashigah noted that so far the real purpose of family planning had not been identified.

He observed that if it was to check population explosion then it was not working and if it was for poverty reduction then it had failed. "I am not too sure because poverty we all know is rising to alarming heights."

Using his family and himself as an example, Major Quashigah narrated that his great grandfather was a stark illiterate and lived for 112 years giving birth to 36 children with six wives.

His grandfather was literate, died at the age of 82 and had 12 children while his mother, an illiterate, and married two men consecutively, was still alive and had nine children.

"I am literate married to a literate woman yet...have seven children and don't forget these are official figures only."

Based on this analysis, the Minister observed that population rate was still rising, poverty was still prevalent while the targets, even those in the present generation, were still giving birth to more children.

The Minister said there was the need for stakeholders to do their homework well in order to ensure that family planning campaigns achieved the desired results.

"If we want to reposition family planning, we must embark on maximum collective analysis and reflection on the nature of issues at stake, coming out with identified solutions, which will form the basis for country-specific follow-up strategies with concrete actions which will be followed through with stakeholders from all sectors."

Emphasising on the unmet needs of the family, which had given rise to increased unwanted pregnancies, maternal and child mortality, Ms Mary Calyn Yates, US Ambassador in Ghana, noted that family planning was directly linked to poor health and negative development consequences. She said the conference's goal was to demonstrate to policy and decision makers in all sectors how the unmet family planning needs were directly linked to these areas.

The Ambassador said if women and men in Ghana were unable to reduce unintended births and the country continued to grow at its present rate, population would top 32 million within the next 15 years.

"The most vulnerable segment of the population that will need reproductive health and child services will number 12 million."

Ms Yates said even though she had used Ghana as an example, the message was applicable to most of the countries represented. Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, said stakeholders hoped to use the comparative advantages of partner organisations to strengthen planning and coordination for strategic allocation of resources through the activities of the West African Health Organisation.

Professor Fred Sai, Government's Adviser on Reproductive Health, HIV/AIDS and Family Planning, reiterated the concerns made by the speakers at the conference and said the onus lay not only with individual countries but also with donor countries, the United Nations, non-governmental organisations and the youth as individuals to ensure the effectiveness of any family planning programme.

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