New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: No Family Planning for Three Percent of Namibian Women

Windhoek — The impact of not accessing family planning in Namibia can be seen in the daily occurrence of baby dumping and teenage pregnancies, according to Mary Hangula of the National Planning Commission.

Hangula was speaking at the launch of the 2012 State of the World Population Report, titled 'By Choice, Not by Chance' by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Windhoek recently.

In Windhoek alone, 10 babies have been dumped so far this year, while 15 percent of all girls below the age of 20 have given birth in Namibia. Compared to other developing countries, however, family planning is free of charge in Namibia, although 3 percent of Namibian women cannot access this service.

Hangula is puzzled by the fact that many Namibian women do not make use of family planning services and risk losing out on an education and achieving their full potential.

"This is a question I am leaving to all of you today to ponder and advise us on a suitable solution," she said. Hangula said the failure to ensure that Namibian teenagers and the 3 percent of women who do not use family planning get access, will result in the country falling short of achieving some Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

She added that the situation could dent the country's efforts to achieve economic prosperity and improved quality of life for all. "This is a serious case, while we all know that family planning services are offered free in all public health facilities," said Hangula.

About 222 million women worldwide can still not access family planning, although the exercise is deemed a fundamental human right according to the 2012 State of the World Population Report.

It is estimated that for just US$1, for every person on earth, everyone could realise this right, which the world body deems a right for every world citizen.

According to the local UNFPA Representative, Fabian Byomuhangi, family planning is one of the critically important investments that could be made in regard to health, women's rights and in the life trajectories of young people.

"With age-appropriate sexuality education and access to contraception, the young can truly plan for school, work and childbearing on their own terms," Byomuhangi said at the launch. Despite promises, resolutions and conventions that affirm family planning, it remains out of reach for 222 million women in developing countries.

"There are many factors that contribute to this gap - limited availability of services, cost and a host of other conditions in the lives of women and men that prevent them from accessing sexual and reproductive health services. These barriers are limiting their rights," Byomuhangi added.

Unchallenged, the lack of family planning perpetuates poverty and gender inequality and can lead to population pressure in poor countries struggling to meet basic human needs. The UN data shows that access to family planning unlocks unprecedented rewards at both individual and national levels, where it can contribute to economic development.

"The cumulative effect of these highly personal decisions can influence entire countries and regions. Added together, personal choices can inspire policies that improve lives," the UNFPA country representative said.

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