London — TANZANIA needs 140bn/- to reach over 3.2 million women by provision of contraceptives in the next three years, President Jakaya Kikwete told an international summit here.
The current programmes reach 2.4 million women countrywide, the president told the International Summit on Family Planning late Wednesday.The groundbreaking Summit brought together governments, private sector and civil society to brainstorm on new ways of mobilising $4bn to reach 120 million women by 2020.
The summit opened by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was also addressed by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and Melinda Gates of Bill & Melinda Foundation.
President Kikwete said the government in Tanzania had for long struggled to improve the health of women. It had been wrestling with the health and social problems brought on by high rates of unplanned pregnancy.
He said the government was compelled to address the health of women because of the prevailing high and unacceptable maternal and infant mortality rates.He noted that Tanzania's population of 45 million was now growing at over 3 per cent annually, while fertility rate stood at between five and six per woman.
"We have dedicated a substantial chunk of the government's maternal clinics and children under five years of age, as well as promotion of family planning services," he explained."There is concrete evidence suggesting that 20-35 per cent of maternal and infant deaths can be avoided through family planning initiatives," he added.
The president commended the Family Planning Association of Tanzania (UMATI) for its contribution in improvement of the health of women in the country."UMATI managed to lift Contraceptive Prevalence Rate in Tanzania from zero to 6 per cent.
"After the government joined with additional initiatives the rate rose to 27 per cent. This is, however, still very low. Our target is to reach at least 60 per cent by 2015," he told the Summit.He said major challenges the country was facing included adequate resources, cultural and religious limitations.
Many religious leaders claim that contraceptives are a form of abortion and unacceptable, while traditionalist regard children as a gift from God to the family. Mr Cameroun had earlier said it was high time for governments to use existing evidence to back up their programmes to improve the health and living standards of their people.
Ms Melinda Gates announced too that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has scaled up its investment in Family Planning to $1bn between now and 2020.
Supporters of the campaign estimate that this year will see 80 million unintended pregnancies in developing countries.They say 800 women die every day as a result of pregnancy-related complications - the leading cause of death for teenage girls in the developing world.
"When I travel and talk to women around the world they tell me that access to contraceptives can often be the difference between life and death," Gates said.
"Today is about listening to their voices, about meeting their aspirations, and giving them the power to create a better life for themselves and their families."
Government officials and aid agencies at the event said the involvement of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, set up by the Microsoft founder and his wife, would help re-frame a debate that has been controversial since the forced sterilisations in India in the 1970s and China's one-child policy.
Victoria Jennings, a director of Georgetown University's Institute for Reproductive Health, said: "To have someone like her on the world stage saying 'come on', it does serve as a tremendous lever to ratchet up the concern."Gates, a Catholic herself, has been criticised by some Catholic groups in the United States over her backing for the initiative.