Dar es Salaam — The government says it has not stopped its family planning programme, clarifying that remarks by President John Magufuli on the matter did not contradict its reproductive health policy objectives.
Health permanent secretary Mpoki Ulisubisya reaffirmed that the ministry was properly apprised of the concerns by President Magufuli which he said, did not mean a ban on family planning.
The PS spoke on Thursday amid a growing debate, even confusion among the public and development partners, whether Tanzania will abandon the use of contraceptives and other methods currently in use for birth control.
President Magufuli sparked the debate when he appeared to criticize family planning during his recent tour of the Lake Zone. Speaking in Meatu District in Simiyu Region, Dr Magufuli chided those who embraced family planning, terming them "lazy."
"Because they are afraid they will not be able to feed their children ... they do not want to work hard to feed a large family. And that is why they opt for birth control and end up with one or two children," said the Head of State.
Dr Magufuli said it was a parody to ask those able to take care of their children to undertake family planning. He was, however, quick to add that he was merely expressing his own views.
It was not the first time that Dr Magufuli has publicly spoken against family planning. After the launch of free primary and secondary education in 2016, he said: "Women can now throw away their contraceptives. Education is now free." His remarks in Meatu have attracted wide readership as international media picked on it. But Dr Ulisubisya on Thursday sought to assure the general public that nothing has changed.
Tanzania passed legislation on family planning in 1976 and this has since remained in force. The PS said the policy's main objective is to prevent maternal and childhood mortality. It among other things, recommends birth between the ages of 18-35 among women and an interval of at least three years between pregnancies.
"The President only urged parents to bear the number of children they can be able to feed. His remarks were that people should not be restricted from reproducing," explained Dr Ulisubisya.
The PS noted that neither the ministry nor donors have ever imposed a regulation that restricts families to a certain number of children. He said the family planning policy only intended to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the mother and the child.
"If a woman gives birth after every one year, her body becomes weak and vulnerable to health problems. It also affects growth of the unborn child," he said.