ADDIS ABABA, 31 January 2017: Africa cannot attain vital goals in continental and global development agendas without ensuring access to voluntary family planning to millions of its women and girls. Progress has been made over the past years, but not enough: a Summit on Family Planning will be held in the summer to speed up efforts, announced panellists at a high-level event in in Addis Ababa, jointly organized by the Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Health, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
Five years after the London Summit and the launch of the FP2020 partnership to provide contraceptives to 120 million more women by 2020, there have been significant achievements towards improving access to voluntary family planning in Africa. But the continent still has the highest rate of adolescent pregnancy in the world, with some five million girls lacking access to contraceptive supplies. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth also remain the primary cause of death for girls aged 15–19 years in Africa.
The high-level event at the African Union Summit served as a moment to reflect on key achievements, challenges and opportunities for scaling up access to voluntary family planning. It also explored the central role of increasing access to voluntary family planning in Africa’s drive towards harnessing a demographic dividend. It was noted that voluntary family planning enabled women and girls to complete their education, take up better economic opportunities and fulfil their potential.
“If you don’t have a working family planning programme, it is unthinkable to reap the demographic dividend,” remarked Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s Executive Director. The demographic dividend is a boost to economic growth that happens when countries had a growing number of working people relative to those below or above the working age. They, therefore, spend less on dependents, can save more and have more disposable resources to invest.
Priti Patel, United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for International Development, lauded recent progress in increasing access to voluntary family planning by implementing FP2020 commitments. But she added that a lot needed to be done in reinforcing collective efforts to cover the last mile in ensuring access to voluntary family planning to millions of women and girls in Africa.
Priti Patel and Dr. Osotimehin jointly announced that a follow-up to the FP2020 Summit will be held in London in 2017, with the goal of delivering a concrete plan to put the world on course to meet FP2020 commitments.
Highlighting Africa’s efforts to make its youthful population play a more active role in development, Ambassador Olawale Maiyegun, Director of Social Affairs at the African Union Commission, stressed the need to create a conducive environment by increasing access to reproductive health and enabling girls stay in school, if Africa hopes to reap the demographic dividend. He added that the African Union Commission was asking member states to ratify the African Youth Charter as one important entry point for harnessing the demographic dividend in the continent.
Yifru Berhan, the Minister of Health of Ethiopia, spoke at the event on the good progress the country made in meeting the FP2020 commitments in increasing access to voluntary family planning. He said this had had a remarkable effect in preventing millions of unintended pregnancies and averting maternal deaths.
The participants of the high-level meeting agreed on the need to increase investments and make strategic decisions to increase access to voluntary family planning through tailored, evidence based, participatory and multisectoral programmes. A call was also made on all partners to lend their support in realizing the implementation of the continental Roadmap on Demographic Dividend.