11 July 2012

Senegal's Health Minister's Speech to London Family Planning Summit

Photo: Anders Kelto/PRI
Members of Tupange - an organization that promotes family planning and reproductive health - recruit people to a health clinic in Nairobi, Kenya.

London — Following is the text of the address by Senegal's Minister of Health Dr Awa Marie Coll-Seck to the Family Planning Summit:

Honorable Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell and Madame Melinda French Gates,

Her Excellency Dr Margaret Chan General Director of W.H.O.,

His Excellency Dr Baba Toundy Director General of UNFPA,

Distinguished guests,

It is a tremendous honour and pleasure to be invited to speak at this historic Family Planning Summit focusing global attention on one of the most serious and neglected public health issues.

We know that Family planning is one of the most cost-effective interventions available to save lives and improve the health of mothers and children.

However, much needs to be done in order to turn this knowledge into action and to galvanize global and local stakeholders to support the poorest and most isolated women in their desire to plan their families.

I know this is reality because I am not only a mother, a wife and a daughter but also a doctor living in the francophone Africa - a region that has one of the highest maternal and new-born mortality rates, a very high fertility rate, and one of the lowest levels of contraceptive use.

As a mother I know the joy of having a healthy child, but as a doctor, I have seen first-hand how unintended pregnancies, frequent births, and a lack of birth spacing can have disastrous consequences.

They threaten the survival of the mother and her new-born; and negatively affect the food security and education of the entire family.

I have listened to the voices of men and women in my country and all over Africa and I know that each one of them dreams of a better life.

Today we share a common vision across the globe: to allow every couple access to contraception so they can plan their family and allow their children to be healthier and more prosperous.

By supporting strong and healthy families, we can build prosperous nations.

On behalf of the President of Senegal, His Excellency Mr Macky Sall, I stand here today as the Minister of Health and as a global champion of women's health to commit to making family planning a top priority in our government and country by making information, supplies, and services available to all women in need, especially to the poor and most vulnerable.

National health insurance and maternal, child and neonatal health are high priorities identified by the Senegalese government and we recognize that family planning is an important investment to achieve our maternal mortality and infant mortality goals.

Although we are very proud of our performance related to decrease child mortality (The Lancet), we know that the journey remains long and hard for Senegal to reach the MDG 5 target on the reduction of maternal mortality.

In fact between 2005 and 2011 the maternal mortality rate has almost not moved and our contraceptive prevalence rate of 12% is one of the lowest in the world.

We have set ourselves ambitious goals and we are fighting to achieve them.

Our vision is to more than double the national Contraceptive Prevalence Rate, moving the needle from 12 to 27% by 2015.

This means increasing the number of women using contraception by more than 100% the coming 3 years.

We are committed to working in partnership with you all to put the needed solutions in place to achieve this goal and to ensure that all women have equal access to quality and affordable services for maternal and child health.

Last year, we defined a strategic roadmap with strong guidelines but we were lacking a clear plan for the way forward.

This year our government has created a transparent process that has brought together all local stakeholders - including religious community, the private sector, donors, civil society, and multilateral organizations - to define an action plan based on our local challenges.

Now, armed with this plan, we have clear direction to transform the health and futures of our children, our families and our country and to address their unmet needs.

Our bold vision for Senegal encompasses 3 critical priorities: build demand, improve supply chain management and offer quality, and increase access.

First, we are working to make family planning socially accepted, openly supported, and widely used.

Delivering this information - and breaking down existing misconceptions - means investing in a high-quality mass communication campaign based in community mobilization and trustworthy and helpful information.

An important part of our work is to capacitate religious, political and community champions to speak out in support of family planning and how it promotes strong and healthy families.

Other important audiences include encouraging discussions about family planning among couples, men and young people.

Second, we have dramatically improved our supply chain management because we faced the persistent problem of running out of supplies.

This had become a barrier to delivering service and products - and ultimately hindered us in increasing the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate.

By re-doubling our efforts, we managed to shake off our complacency and boldly tackle the root causes at both the national and local levels.

Nationally, we have successfully clarified and improved the efficiency of our forecasting and order processes.

And locally, we have implemented pilot projects of the informed push model.

This approach is able to bypass logistical challenges and streamline product distribution channels to spontaneously fill the local pipe with products and reduce supply shortages to zero.

Third, we also look at the private sector and to community-based approaches to expand family planning access and use.

For example, mobile outreach clinics, social marketing, and franchise models have proven especially helpful in supporting the use of long acting family planning methods.

At the same time, we are scaling up community-based distribution to ensure that all parts of Senegal - even remote, rural areas - have reliable and equal access to pills and potentially injectable contraceptive products.

Lastly, I want to highlight our keen interest in introducing exciting new contraceptive technologies that will help us meeting goals for 2015 and beyond.

Senegal is one of the first countries, along with Uganda, that will help test a new contraceptive product, the Depo Sub-Q in Uniject.

This innovative product can deliver 3 months of safe, effective, and easy-to-use contraception using a simple subcutaneous device.

In parallel, we are working with community health workers to increasing women's access to birth control pills and - potentially later - to injectable contraceptives such as the Depo Provera.

All of these tremendous efforts are extremely promising, but we know that without the long-term engagement of the government, they will be short-lived.

So, we are hereby committing to invest the necessary resources to make this change happen and to reach our ambitious goal of 27% Contraceptive Prevalence Rate.

Because we are accountable to our women and our families, on this historic day in front of all of you, I am happy to announce that the Senegalese Government will increase not only the budget line for contraceptive procurement by at least 200%, but also double the budget for the management of the Family Planning program and action plan.

The dedication of the Senegalese government to family planning is not only visible in our financial support but also in our political actions such as the elevation of Family Planning to a Division and the allocation of additional resources to ensure the execution and monitoring of the action plan.

We are also working on improving the legal and regulatory environment and make it more friendly to family planning.

To achieve our vision and close the gaps we hope for the support of all stakeholders at the Summit.

It is crucial for us that we work together, hand-in-hand, to meet our country's and our families' needs.

I thank you very much for your attention and for all of your help in building healthier families and a stronger Senegal.

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