The 2019 World Contraception Day and National Family Planning (FP) Week, has been launched by the Ghana Health Service (GHS), on the theme: “Family Planning; Know Your Options, Make Your Choice”.
The event, which was organised in collaboration with the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) and other development partners, was to raise national awareness and promote family planning as one of the most cost-effective interventions for improving maternal and child health and ensure socio-economic development.
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director of the Family Health Division of the Ghana Health Service, said although Ghana has made some progress in the area of modern contraceptive usage among married women, there are still shortfalls in reaching out to especially the youth.
He said one third of all women of reproductive age in the country have unmet needs for modern contraception, an inequity driven by both a growing population, and a shortage of FP services.
He said there were currently about seven different types of modern FP methods available within the public and private health sectors, which include implants, intra uterine contraceptive devices, injectable, pills, condoms, natural family planning methods (ie Cycle beads) and permanent methods.
However, Ghana needed to ‘up the game’ in advocacy and accountability for resources, quality and rights, monitoring and tracking all commitments made over the years, and to maintain the gains as the issue of unmet contraceptive needs was still high, he said.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said the commemoration of the week was to get both young people and adults to patronise family planning services in order to improve their reproductive health, and draw the attention of policy makers to improve investment and support in procurement of FP commodities.
Some of the activities for the celebrations would include street floats, community durbars, health education and counselling, and free service delivery across the country.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said FP programmes in the country continue to face challenges with persistent myths and misconceptions that it was for only married and older people, but stressed that all individuals and couples including adolescents, were eligible for FP services, saying “young or old, family planning should be a simple and personal decision made by informed individuals or couples regarding whether or not to, how often and when to have children”.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said there is also the notion that FP was simply another way of controlling individuals and couples with regards to child birth and that it is only to prevent pregnancy, but explained that contrary to this, these services extended to persons with infertility challenges and provided them with counselling, he said.
He underscored the importance of contraceptive usage adding that as much as FP was a critical pillar in the Demographic Dividend Framework, it was also a key strategy for the transition from high fertility and high maternal and child mortality to a situation of low fertility and consequently, reduce maternal and child mortality.
He saidthe high patronage of family planning services would prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortion and improve the wellbeing of women and children, saying there has been a gradual, but consistent increase in modern contraceptive prevalence rate, and now more than ever, there was the need for increased momentum to meet the national and global FP2020 targets.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said government recognizes family planning as a multi-sectoral issue with benefits beyond health and has since been working tirelessly to address the challenges posed by initiating a two-year pilot programme in 2018, to “Test Inclusion of Family Planning in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Benefit Package”.
The findings from the project being implemented across seven districts of the country would inform the modalities for operationalisation and full implementation of FP in the NHIS benefit package nationally to decrease out of pocket expenditures and consequently increase access, he said.
He also cited President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo’s recent allocation of a health and commodities budget line through the MOH that included FP commodities which was undoubtedly a step in the right direction as Ghana moved beyond Aid.
He said as part of the FP2020 Commitments, the government is committed to increasing the number of women using modern contraceptive respectively from 1.46 million in 2015 to 1.93 million in 2020, through improved access and availability of services at all levels, provider training, expanded method mix, and demand creation for FP services.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye called for intensified media education to accelerate efforts towards the reduction of maternal and child deaths, through cost effective interventions such as FP.
Both Ms Joan Schubert, the Chief of Party, USAID Communicate for Health, and Ms Anne Coolen, the Country Director of Marie Stopes International, called for intensified public education to ensure that the youth have access to contraceptive and FP services.
Mr Niy Ojuolape, the UNFPA Country Representative, said his outfit remains committed to promoting the vision where every pregnancy was planned and wanted, and to improve awareness of the uptake of contraception to enable individuals including adolescents and couples to make informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health.