ZIMBABWE has a total of 2.2 million users of modern day family planning methods amidst indications that the country is close to attaining the 2020 target which aims to increase the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) from the current 66 percent to 68 percent.
By Michael Gwarisa
Addressing a media conference ahead of the World Population Day celebrations 2018, Director Family Health in the ministry of health and child care (MoHCC), Dr Bernard Madzima said although Zimbabwe has made significant strides towards availing quality family planning services to the population, more still needed to be done to cover the remaining gap.
“The family planning program is guided by international protocols, we also have the Sustainable development goals which talk to issues of health and sexual reproductive health . We are also guided by the family planning 2020 commitments we know that in 2012, almost 70 countries met for the London summit where they made a commitment to improving family planning services and Zimbabwe in one of those countries.
“In 2017, we went back to London and recommitted ourselves and to review what we have achieved over the past five year and i would like to say Zimbabwe has done very well in terms of family planning services. We have a total of 2.2 million users of family planning users in Zimbabwe. Since 2012, we have have had 510 000 additional users of family planning services,” said Dr Madzima.
For married women, family planning and contraceptive use is at 69 percent, unmet needs standing at 11 percent, while 57 percent of the 2 million women using family planning methods are using the pill 15 percent injectables, 17 implants, condoms 9 percent, and in men, vasectomy is at 1 percent.
According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS), contraceptive use has gone up from 46 percent in 1998 to 57 percent in 2015.
“We are aiming mainly to reduce adverse outcomes in women and the critical one is death. We are saying if 2.2 million are using modern contraceptives in Zimbabwe, because of this we avert 785 000 unintended pregnancies, 173 000 unsafe abortion and ultimately we lower maternal deaths by 2, 600.
“So that is why we are putting emphasis on why it is critical to have a good family planning program. So as we move forward towards 2020, we have a strong program yes but it needs to be sustained. We also want to move away from oral contraceptives to improve the method mix so that we have more women and also that we have more adolescents accessing these services,” added Dr Madzima.
Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) executive director, Dr Munyaradzi Murwira applauded Zimbabwe for making strides in availing quality family planning methods to the population but however bemoaned the low uptake of services by adolescent girls.
“According to 2015 ZDHS report, 22 percent of young women aged 15- 19 have already begun child bearing and 17 percent of the youths are already mothers. and an additional 5 percent are pregnant with their first child.
“So this is a very serious issue in terms of ensuring that young people are protected from early pregnancies and child marriages. Young motherhood is most common in rural areas as compared to urban areas. Most of the new HIV infections occur in these areas, investing in young people is key to achieving good demographic dividend of the country,” said Dr Murwira.
He added that there was low uptake of family planning methods on the southern side of the country especially Matabelenand and Masvingo areas owing to a myriad of factors, chief among them being the absence of primary health care services, a partially spaced population and high migration levels into neighboring South Africa and Botswana.
UNPFA Zimbabwe representative, Dr Ester Muia implored Zimbabwe to invest heavily towards availing quality family planning methods.
“The World Population Day has been commemorated for the last three decades and every year the theme changes. Its a day that makes us focus on population issues. The Theme this year is “Family Planning is a Human Right.” In Zimbabwe things have been happening since 1953 and the first point is that family planning is a human right.
“What it states is that parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number of children they desire to have. Family planning is not about limiting the couples but on how to space the children when they plan and how to space them. Family is essential to overcome poverty which worsens when individuals can not choose the size of their family,” said Dr Muia.
She added that family planning was about choice and there is no coercion or force as to the uptake of family planning methods. She also called on government to resolve the issues of high teen pregnancies and the lack of family planning services in certain areas around the country.