10 October 2018

Tanzania: Child Spacing - When the Choice of F Amily Planning Method Is a Human Right

HEALTH authorities have been campaigning to promote family planning; mainly because unplanned birth has commonly been linked to poverty, economic instability, higher maternal depression and child mortality.

According to the Ministry of Health other causes of maternal mortality include Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) which is excessive bleeding and loss of blood after childbirth, and High Blood Pressure and Eclampsia.

The Health Management Information Systems (HMIS) shows that as of 2016 the maternal mortality ratio stands at 276/100,000 deliveries while the target is to move to at least 130/100,000 while child deaths ratio is at 28/1000 higher the target of 15/1000.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than thirty percent of the deaths of both women and children are preventable and one of the ways for prevention is to take family planning/child spacing serious.

Family planning programme has undergone transformation in terms of policy and actual programme implementation for many years with success at snails pace.

Prompting the health officers here to have a renewed call to stakeholders to make family planning a national development priority. The renewed strategy in promoting family planning includes involving members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

They have been well informed about risks of ignoring family planning. At the workshop on 'family planning' organized by the Ministry of Health with the support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), lawmakers were told that consequences of ignoring child spacing have started to 'bite.'

The workshop facilitators said, "Our population growth is about 2.8 percent, the highest in the region yet our land and natural resources remain unchanged.

Insufficient basic need such as water supply in the Islands, congestion in schools (some classes with more than two-hundred pupils), and inadequate land are results of unplanned birth."

"We need to change and consider family planning important for our development. Negative perceptions and religious concerns should be put aside," the Minister for Health Mr Hamad Rashid Mohamed said in the meeting with legislators.

He said campaign to promote family planning should go along with overcoming other challenges. Contraceptives sideeffects by convincing women and men that the methods are safe, and shortage/lack of access to quality services should not be an excuse for dumping family planning.

The Minister informed the participants of the seminar that although campaign for family planning has been in place for some decades, findings reveal that use of modern contraceptives is still very low.

He emphasized that planning families by child spacing is for healthy children and is important in reducing maternal and infant mortality, challenges which must be beaten by stakeholders, each, taking responsibility.

"Family planning has been in existence for a long period of time. Both the religion and tradition support family planning in a different way. Allowing breastfeeding for more than two years consecutively to prevent conceiving while the baby is still small is also good family planning," the Minister said.

He said since China managed to implement one-child policy for long, "How comes members of public are not voluntarily willing to implement family planning policy in our families?

It is for our benefit! Speaker of the Zanzibar House of Representatives Mr Zubeir Ali Maulid who was one of the speakers at the meeting, appealed to the public to take advantage of modern techniques of family planning to space their children to ensure their healthy growth.

He asked legislators to drum for family planning in their respective constituencies because Zanzibar needs to achieve at least 20 percent goal by 2020 women using family planning.

The current data is only 14 percent of women able to conceive. Mr Maulid commended the Health Ministry and development partners for the ongoing support in promoting family planning as he emphasized on collaboration in campaigning for Maternal and Neonatal survival.

"Let us have the political will, shape social attitudes and dispel myths through advocacy and awareness because family planning provides many benefits to mother, children, father, the family and the nation," he said.

Health experts mention some of the benefits of family planning (to mother) as it enables her to regain health after delivery.

It gives enough time and opportunity to love and provide attention to her husband and children; and gives more time for her family and own personal advancement.

Benefits to father family planning help him lighten the burden and responsibility in supporting his family and enables him to give his children their basic needs (food, shelter, education and better future). Legislator for Shaurimoyo constituency Mr Hamza Hassan Juma said child spacing is good.

Providing accessible and voluntary family planning has social and economic benefits contributing to poverty reduction and sustainable development.

He said that family planning has the potential to boost the development of entire country and that negative perception impedes the use of family planning/ birth spacing.

The Principal Secretary (PS) to the Ministry of Health Ms Asha Abdalla Ali, stated that "child birth without spacing is dangerous to the mother and the infant, and that it is high time We work together in ensuring right information about Family Planning (FP) reach every village."

It said that majority of men in the Islands still do not practice FP/birth spacing owing to religious reasons, quoting various religious injunctions and traditions, they discus that bearing many children is advocated by Islam.

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