ZIMBABWE joined the world in commemorating World Contraceptive Day on Spetember 26, 2018. The day is celebrated every year for the purposes of lobbying and advocating for action for improved access and knowledge about Family Planning.
The 2018 theme was, “It’s your life: it’s your responsibility”. Family Planning is a key pillar to ensure safe motherhood. Access to information and services enables women and men the voluntary ability to space births, benefiting the mothers’ and children’s health and the community as a whole. It also reduces the risk of death and disability associated with from pregnancy and childbirth that occur too early or too late in a woman’s life as is the situation in Zimbabwe.
Although Zimbabwe has made huge progress in the provision of Family Planning for women and girls more efforts are required to ensure access for even those in the remotest parts of the country says the Zimbabwe National Family Council (ZNFPC) and partner UNFPA.
Zimbabwe’s Contraceptive Prevalence rate (CPR), that is the proportion of women aged 15-49 using family planning is 67% today, an improvement from 59% in 2010. This is one of the highest on the continent but there remains unmet need among women and girls of reproductive age, the majority of them in rural settings and often young.
Unmet need for family planning among married couples is 10% in urban areas and 11% in rural areas while unmet need for young people is 12.6%.
To unload the myths and ambiguities surrounding the access of family planning and contraceptive services to youths and young people, HealthTimes editor, Michael Gwarisa engaged in a Questions and Answer (Q&A) with Mr Weston Makoni (WM), the Production Manager Audio Visual Unit for Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC)
Q. As the world celebrates World Contraception Day what are some of the family planning options available for young people in Zimbabwe and which ages are you looking at?
A. The methods for preventing pregnancy that are recommended for young people are:
- Abstinence and other forms of showing affection e.g. music, poems etc.
- Male and female condoms
- The pill (oral contraceptives e.g. Secure and Control/ Marvelon 28)
- Injections e.g. Depo Provera
- Implants e.g. Jadelle and Implanon
- Intra-uterine copper device (IUCD)
- Emergency contraception
All of these methods are reversible. That means that a woman can get pregnant when she and her partner stop using it. None of them result in infertility. No method is completely effective, although there are many that are highly effective. Therefore, there is some risk involved when using any method. Ideally, the decision about which contraceptive method to use should be made by both partners.
Q. What ages are u looking at?
A. As ZNFPC under our Adolescent and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health program (ASRH) we offer sexual and reproductive health information and services to people aged between 10 and 24 years. Specifically, our interventions are age specifics as we group the youngsters by their age as;
- 10 – 13 years
- Youth 20-24yrs
Q. Zimbabwe is a very conservative country when it comes to issues of contraception especially in young people especially adolescents. What are you doing as organization to demystify the myths surrounding contraceptives to ensure uptake of contraceptives improves in young people?
A. Our point of engagement is abstinence. We have other packages targeting different segments or members of the community. We do Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) at our youth centres and in the community. The CSE package is comprehensive in that young people, guardians and parents etc. are engaged to understand and appreciate reproductive health issues amongst young people e.g. sexuality, menstrual hygiene, self-esteem, contraception and puberty.
We have Parent Child Communication (PCC) as a package in which we aim to strengthen the capacity of parents and adolescents in creating an interactive and engaging environment to communicate freely, confidently, competently and friendly matter on sexual and reproductive matters including contraception.
Our programs are structured that those in hard to reach areas are also informed about matters of adolescent and youth sexual reproductive health and even accessing services. Outreaches are also done in tertiary institutions. Primarily correct, factual information is shared from expects so that the young people are empowered in the area of sexual and reproductive health.
Q. The issue of condoms in schools is still a contentious issue in Zimbabwe, is this attainable in Zimbabwe?
A. This is not yet acceptable in Zimbabwe and we do not give condoms at schools. However, sexually active young people are accessing condom from the normal health delivery system, shops and pharmacies.
Q. What exactly do we mean by youth friendly family planning services?
A. They are family planning service to sexually active young people and are accessible, acceptable and appropriate for them. The services are in the right place, at the right price (free were necessary) and delivered in the right style to be acceptable to young people. They are effective, safe and affordable. They meet the individual needs of young people who return when they need to and recommend these services to friends.
Q. We also hear that in tertiary institutions, it is the morning after pill which enjoys greater consumption as compared to condoms indicating that students are actually fear pregnancy more than ?
A. It has been noticed that some students are abusing Emergency Contraception and it appear as young people in tertiary institutions actually fear pregnancy than HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections. We are working with pharmacies and service providers in giving information on correct use of emergency contraception since emergency contraception is not a form of contraception and should be taken ONLY for emergency. We are intensifying our programs in tertiary institutions and are also encouraging them to use condoms since they offer dual protection which means that they prevent both pregnancy and STI and AIDS.
Q. As we join the world in commemorating World Contraception Day, how far has Zimbabwe gone in ensuring increased uptake of contraceptives by the locals?
A. On the global scale, Zimbabwe knowledge of family planning (FP) among the sexually active population is almost universal at 99%. According to 2015 Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS), the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) increased from 54% in 1999 to 66.5% in 2015. The country is targeting to have the CPR at 68% by 2020. The government, through ZNFPC has developed a strategy that will guide the nation in the provision of integrated quality family planning , adolescent sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS services from 2016-2020 thus the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Strategy. The government has also committed to the global movement on family planning, the FP2020 in which it commit to remove user fees for family planning services.
The ZNFPC and local implementing partners are exploiting various media platforms and exhibitions to disseminate information on family planning so that people come to know and demand family planning services.