13 April 2014

Zambia: Family Planning - Boon to the Economy

FIFITY years after Zambia's independence, many women still lose their lives during child delivery due to various factors. Lack of information on family planning is one of the factors that have contributed to higher maternal mortality.

However, family planning helps families devote more resources to providing for each child, drop maternal and child illness. The practice also reduces economic strain on families as well as maternal deaths and in turn strengthens families and communities and reduces poverty levels.

Other benefits include, economical, social, reduce environmental pressures as well as enhance women's status by promoting a equality among women. However, there are many challenges faced by women who use family planning hence the need for all stakeholders to join hands and help them address these challenges.

Research shows that women in rural communities have challenges in using family planning and this is made evident by the high fertility rate in those areas. Other challenges faced by almost all the woman in these areas is that they have no easy access to the drugs and also lack of information concerning the correct use.

Statistics have revealed that more than 70,000 maternal deaths are recorded among adolescents aged 15 to 19 annually.

Girls below 15 years are five times more likely to die in child birth than women in their twenties. While an estimated 2.5 million young women aged 15-19 have an unsafe abortion in the developing world each year.

According to a research conducted by the Advocates for Youth, 2007; UNICEF, 2008; Guttmacher, 2009 also revealed that poverty levels have continued to escalate. United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative Mary Otieno said the number was likely to increase due to lack of knowledge on the use of family planning among women.

Zambia is one of the countries in the world with the highest fertility rates but has the highest maternal mortality rates.

Against this background, Ms Otieno said there was need for the media to educate the masses on family planning as doing so would help reduce maternal death among adolescents and women.

"Although UNFPA has taken a lead in implementing the Cairo consensus, its scope and depth requires the participation of broad coalition of actors, the non-governmental organisations and the government," Ms Otieno said.

Reproductive health specialist, Stephen Mupeta has urged journalists to be objective when reporting sexuality so that people make informed choices and decisions and subsequently contribute to attaining the eighth Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Dr Mupeta advised media to research thoroughly on family planning in an effort to educate the public in an informed manner.

He said this during a presentation at the just ended workshop for journalists on family planning and reproductive health.

Dr Mupeta said the media need to help people understand myths and misconceptions concerning the side effects of the drugs which make women shun the medication.

He said family planning is not about stopping people from having children but rather help them plan.

"It is about enabling men and women to make informed decisions about the welfare of the woman, the children, and the family as a whole," Dr Mupeta said.

Moreover, Government is committed to family planning as evidenced at the London Summit which was held on July 11th, 2012 and renewed global interest and support where Zambia and many countries developed action plans for family planning.

Following the commitments made at the summit, the Government of the Republic of Zambia began to develop its Eight-Year Family Planning Scale Up plan in September 2012, to ensure that the commitments are put in place and the objectives be met by 2020.

UNFPA Programme Specialist, Population and Development, Charles Banda said Government's strides in the health sector were visible as it had not only increased the health budget but keen to improve infrastructure.

He said the country's life expectancy had increased due to high fertility with six children per woman in 2010 and Zambia's population was increasing at a rapid rate 2.8 per cent in 2010) and most composed of young people.

Mr Banda said the country's populations will more than double by 2035 unless this is matched with a high economic growth as well as equitable distribution of goods and services, Zambia may end up experiencing many problems.

He said whether population dynamics pose challenges or provide opportunities largely depends on the policies that are effected.

He said any country's development goals and agenda must address and harness population dynamics through rights-based and gender-responsive policies and programmes.

It is widely believed that desired fertility is most responsive to improvements in human development, in particular in female education and child survival.

The early onset of fertility and the close spacing of births present health risks to girls and young women, limit their education and livelihood possibilities.

This can have a negative impact on the growth of the economy because it affects the productivity of the youth and the women.

For that reason government should invest in programmes that would encourage delay early onset of fertility among adolescent.

The use of family planning cannot be over emphasised if the country is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and also reduce the number of adolescents who die when carrying out unsafe abortions every year.

Therefore UNFPA's dream of delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person's potential is fulfilled should be adopted by everyone.

It is prudent that every person partners with government, civil society organisation, and other UN agencies to advance the mission and save the lives of the women younger generation.

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