22 April 2012

Tanzania: Teach Rural Communities Family Planning

Mwajuma Sozi (32) is a mother of six children; her first born is Khadija Nuru who has just finished Standard Seven.

Walking around her hut in Mbola village in Tabora region the mother is busy foraging some wild vegetables with a 10-month baby on her back. She has once heard from other people about family planning but does not seem to understand what is all about.

"The truth is, I have heard about family planning, I even mentioned it once to my husband but he did not want to listen to me and never spoke about it again," she confessed. The husband who was a bread earner for the family suffered from a stroke and could no longer take part in productive activities. However, he keeps producing children.

The wife says there was no way she could stop the husband from making her pregnant. Millions of women in rural areas are already vulnerable to poverty, the lack of persistence knowledge on family planning has aggravated the situation. According to the Annual Health Statistic Report 2011 provided by Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, population and housing census showed that the population of Tanzania increased from 23.1 million in 1988 to 34.4 million in 2002 with an average growth rate of 2.9 per cent per annum.

The proportion of the population aged below 15 years was about 44 per cent while those aged 65 years and above was four per cent, indicating that Tanzania has more of a young population. It is expected that Tanzania will have a population of 63.5 million in 2025. While young people in urban city use family planning methods to simply prevent pregnancy, most rural women are not aware of methods of planning.

Methods of family planning include contraceptive pills, condoms, Implants such as coils, injections and natural rhythm just to mention few. Doctor Steven Muya of Hindu Mandal Hospital says continued community health education in rural areas would allow rural communities to learn about family planning. "We have a programme here in the hospital whereby free consultation on family planning is provided.

There are people who are aware of family planning and they still choose to ignore it and in the rural area the situation is worse," he said. However, in the Annual Health Statistic Report, in 2010 the projected population for Family Planning users was 10,995,531, which is an increase from 8,503,658 in year 2008. While at the end of the year 2010 the Family Planning programme registered 1,572,351 (14%) registered as new FP clients, an increase from (13%) in year 2008. While 3,942,505 (35.9%) were continuous FP clients.

In total 5,118,329 equal to (47%) were FP clients for the year 2010 taking short term, medium term or permanent methods. This trend is a good achievement for the Ministry as FP is one of the key pillars for reduction of maternal death and contributes largely to the well-being of the Tanzanian community. It is indicated that the need for quality family planning services is all the more urgent today because more than 1 billion young people age 15 to 24 are entering their reproductive years, guaranteeing an enormous surge in population growth through 2050. Eighty per cent of these young people live in the developing world.

On the other hand, Engender Health has proven that even in resource-poor settings, family planning services can be safe, effective and affordable. Engender Health partners with governments, national health systems, community organizations, policymakers, and health care providers to improve the safety, efficacy, and quality of family planning services. Engender Health for example; the number of clients opting for these methods has increased by nearly 30% every year since the start of EngenderHealth's Acquire Tanzania Project (ATP) in 2004.

Through initiatives such as the respond Project and ATP, EngenderHealth continues to expand the capacity of national governments to provide quality family planning, focusing on promoting the availability and use of longacting and permanent methods.

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