Mauritius: World Population Day 2018 - Need to Reposition the Family Planning Strategy, Says Dr Husnoo

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There is a need to reposition the family planning strategy to enhance the visibility, availability, and quality services for increased contraceptive use and healthy timing and spacing of births, and ultimately to improve the quality of life of the population.

This statement was made this morning by the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Dr Anwar Husnoo, at the opening of a one-day workshop on Family Planning and Contraceptive Methods organised in the context of World Population Day 2018 at Voilà Hotel in Bagatelle.

Around 50 representatives from several ministries and NGOs are participating. The aim is to improve the knowledge of the participants as regards family planning and contraceptive methods so that they can in turn raise awareness in the community. Several themes will be discussed namely: Family planning statistics; Family planning services in Primary Health Care; Counseling on the methods of contraception; Importance of birth spacing for the health of mothers; communication skills during family planning sessions; and barriers to family planning services in deprived areas.

Dr Husnoo pointed out that the provision of reproductive health services has always been one of the main concerns of the Government and the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life. Health Services in Mauritius are provided free of charge to all citizens, irrespective of their economic situation. There has been a renewed effort to improve reproductive health services through the Primary Health Care Division of the Ministry, he stated.

He added that health indicators have considerably improved in Mauritius as reflected by impressive gains in life expectancies for both sexes, particularly for women as their life expectancy has increased from 62 years in 1962 to 78 in 2017, while life expectancy for men has improved from 59 years in 1962 to 71 years in 2017.

The Health Minister however acknowledged that challenges exist as regards sexual and reproductive health in Mauritius. We are not only calling for our total fertility rate to increase to a replacement level of 2.1 for a sustainable population but we are also encouraging for responsible parenthood, he pointed out.

Some of the challenges include: 8% of the total births in Mauritius were from mothers below the age of 20; increase in the percentage of deliveries by caesarian section from 45.3 % in 2013 to 50.7 % in 2017; decrease in the number of current users of family planning methods in government clinics at the primary health care level from 24,478 in 2013 to 18,057 in 2017 representing a decrease of 26.2 %; and increase in maternal mortality ratio from 69 per hundred thousand live births in 2013 to 79 per hundred thousand live births in 2017.

He highlighted that actions are being taken actions to respond to these challenges. As such, the Family Planning Programme is targeting younger married and unmarried women, non-users of Family Planning methods and users of less effective methods. Measures have also been taken to reinforce the educational programme on sexual and reproductive health issues among students of the secondary schools and educational campaigns are being undertaken to reach the 'out-of-school youth' on sexuality and related issues, he said.

Other measures include: redesign of the Family Planning Services to integrate Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV/AIDS prevention; promotion of male involvement in family planning and fostering of respectful and responsible sexuality and parenthood; and intensification of public information and education campaigns to raise awareness of

population-related issues so as to enable couples and individuals to exercise their right to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of children.

Family planning services in Mauritius

Mauritius is often cited in different fora as a success story in the field of family planning and population control and reproductive health.

The availability of family planning services in Mauritius dates back to 1957 when the NGO Mauritius Family Planning and Welfare Association was set up. Moreover, the NGO Action Familiale, which was established in 1963, has been promoting use of natural family planning methods and has been providing counselling services

The national family planning programme has long shifted its focus from achieving demographic targets to improving the reproductive health of the population. However, since its inception, the guiding principle of the family programme has been that, all couples and individuals have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children.

Contraceptives have been made available to individuals and couples, free of user cost at government health service points, since the late 1960's. The family planning programme provides a wide range of short-term and long-term contraceptive methods as well.

World Population day 2018

World Population Day, which seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, was established by the then-Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989, an outgrowth of the interest generated by the Day of Five Billion, which was observed on 11 July 1987.

The theme this year is "Family Planning is a Human Right". It focuses attention to the fact that a basic human right is to be able to get safe and effective family planning. It should also be a voluntary choice. Gender equality and women's empowerment depend on it. Furthermore, it is a key factor in reducing poverty.

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