14 May 2012

Tanzania: MPs Petition Government Over Family Planning

MEMBERS of Parliament (MPs) have petitioned the government over what they view as insignificance given to Family Planning issues in the five year national development Plan.

While they commend the government for prioritizing the health sector and particularly showing the ambition to cut maternal mortality rates from 454 to 175 per 100,000 births and child mortality rates from 112 to 45 per 1000 births by 2015/2016, they specifically point to what they view as a "glaring loophole" in the plan where no funds are allocated to Family Planning issues.

In the petition, sent to President Jakaya Kikwete, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, Speaker Anne Makinda, Minister for finance and the ministry of health and social welfare, they note that not including it in the national plan may frustrate the government's efforts when mobilizing resources for this particular "very important issue" for Tanzanians.

"In the health sector, page 156, there is no money allocated to ensure certain availability of reproductive services including contraceptives for family planning, except that there is 15bn/- put as training for people to give those services."The petition, it is expected, would influence planning at the Planning Commission.

Through the Parliamentary Family Planning Club (PFFC), headed by Peramiho Legislator Jenista Mhagama, the law makers quote extensively from local and international insights to make a point that not including it in the development plans may contradict the government's other development plans like the national plan to reduce maternal mortality deaths 2008-2015

"This contradicts the government's view in other development plans like the national plan to reduce maternal mortality deaths 2008-2015 and the National Poverty reduction plan (MKUKUTA 11 2010-2015) which emphasizes the importance of family planning in the country's development," it notes.

In making their special request for the government to include family planning issues in the national five year development plan and the Vision 2025, they note that while they congratulate the government for preparing the five year development plan 2011/2016 which aims at achieving Vision 2025, they ask that it should include reproductive health in the national plans and the implementing organs and allocate finances for it.

"We think the five year plan has not been given any implementation activity and budget," they say.They quote widely, noting that Family Planning has not been given any significant attention, yet some 25 per cent of those of need of those services do not get them according to the Tanzania Demographic Survey (TDS) 2010.

They add that TDS 2010 notes that due to the little investment in reproductive health, use of modern contraceptives has insignificantly increased from 20 per cent in 2005 to 27 per cent of the women in marriage in comparison with the national objective of reaching 60 per cent by 2015.

According to the national strategy of reducing maternal mortality rates and child mortality rates 2008-2015, planning pregnancies can cut mothers' deaths by 20 per cent up to 35 per cent.The 2010 research on population increase has also confirmed that women who get children below every two years contribute to to child mortality rates.

Research by Futures Group international under the Health Policy Innitiative, engaging the poor on family Planning as a poverty reduction strategy 2009, has confirmed that family planning contributes to poverty reduction.The MPs, both from the CCM and the opposition argue that since it is a serious government guideline in annual budget preparations, not including family planning would affect the efforts to look for resources to implement in the process to offer family planning services.

The petition they signed urges the government to consider the national family planning programme (2010 -2015) in order to prioritise it in five national development plan.This, they add, would increase international efforts to strengthen accountability in improving mothers' and chidren's health spearheaded by President Jakaya Kikwete.

With the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, President Kikwete is a co-chair of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health and improving the health of women and children is a matter known to be close to his heart.

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