WHO and partners step up action to improve access to and uptake of family planning services in four African countries

WHO and partners step up action to improve access to and uptake of family planning services in four African countries

Brazzaville, 1 February 2017 – The World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO AFRO) today concluded a three-day orientation and planning workshop in Brazzaville, Congo for the implementation of “Africa: Strategic Technical Engagement with Evidence for Results (Af-STEER): A regional platform to strengthen FP programmes’ performance in African countries”.

This is a project to be implemented with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).  The project will contribute to addressing the high unmet need for contraception and improve the quality of family planning services with a focus on adolescent girls and women in the postpartum and post abortion periods in four countries: Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Uganda. 

“Despite many efforts, our region is still facing persistent challenges that hinder progress in Family Planning that need to be tackled in a coherent and inclusive manner,” said Dr Felicitas Zawaira, Director of Family and Reproductive Health of the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa, adding, “Political will and leadership, adoption of global standards/normative guidelines, widespread use of evidence-based tools, and scale-up of evidence-based best practices are key to reducing unmet need for contraceptives.” While acknowledging the broad and demonstrated commitment that exists to address unmet need for family planning/contraception in the African Region, she further called for improvements in the speed and consistency of implementation of effective strategies.

In the WHO African Region, there is a high unmet need for family planning with more than 47 million women who would like to stop or delay childbearing but are not using any method of contraception. As a result, unintended pregnancies remain a problem that threatens the lives and well-being of women and girls, their families, and the community at large. This unmet need for family planning/contraception contributes also to neonatal and infant mortality.  Furthermore, it is responsible for negative socio-economic effects such as lack of educational and economic opportunities, and diminishment of household incomes.

Globally, if Family Planning needs for modern methods are met in developing countries, unintended pregnancies would drop by 70%, from 74 million to 22 million per year; maternal deaths would drop by 67%; newborn deaths would drop by 77%. Family planning is thus recognized as a cost-effective life-saving intervention, playing a critical role in the achievement of most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The key challenges to meeting family planning needs of adolescents and women in the WHO African Region include the poor quality of services, unavailability and inaccessibility of contraceptives, and the persistence of social, cultural and financial barriers.

This grant will allow WHO AFRO to support the four countries in achieving increased contraceptive uptake in the post-partum and post-abortion period; instating expanded availability of high quality sexual and reproductive health services and information for adolescents and youth; and creating increased access to a wider range of contraceptive methods (expanded method mix) through expanded health provider roles in family planning.

“WHO intends to deepen its country-level engagement through technical support, dissemination of evidence-based guidelines, capacity building and quality of care improvement,” said Dr Zawaira, confirming the Organization’s commitment to work with national partners to make this possible.

The planning workshop is a first step in jump-starting implementation of the grant.  It aims to review and discuss the reports of the assessments of Family Planning programmes and services in the 4 countries; create a common understanding of the Grant, its goal and objectives as well as its key components. It will also provide an opportunity to review key WHO tools and guidance for Family Planning that will be disseminated and used; develop country specific work plans; discuss and agree on the expected role of each level of the Organization as well as the roles of ministries of health and partners.

Participants of the workshop include representatives from the four countries covered in the grant (Ministry of Health, national societies of Gynecology-Obstetrics and Midwives, UNFPA and WHO country offices), WHO Headquarters, AFRO and Inter-Country Support Teams as well as USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Implementing Best Practices (IBP) and Family Planning FP2020.

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For more information, please contact:

Dr Leopold Ouedraogo Sexual and Reproductive Health Advisor WHO AFRO Tel: +47 24139700;  Email: ouedraogol@who.int

Dr Triphonie Nkurunziza Team Leader for Reproductive and Women’s Health WHO AFRO Tel: +47 24139132;  Email: nkurunzizat@who.int

Loza Mesfin Tesfaye  Communications Officer, WHO AFRO Tel: +47 24139779; +242 044 800 212 Email: tesfayel@who.int

Collins Boakye-Agyemang Regional Communications Advisor, a.i. Tel: + 242 06 520 6565; Email: boakyeagyemangc@who.int