The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has on Friday, 10th of June, 2021 kick-started a campaign in a bid to end the unmet needs for family planning and others in the country.
The theme for this year's campaign is "I am for Zero"- a platform to promote the agency's three transformative results: zero unmet for family planning, zero preventive maternal deaths, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices.
Lamin Camara, Programme Analyst- Adolescents and Youth at the UNFPA The Gambia, said the campaign will introduce new activities such as school outreaches on menstrual health and hygiene management, out-of-school sensitisation on gender-based violence among others.
"In the context of Covid-19 and the emergence of vaccines, the campaign will also strengthen risk communication and community engagement especially in dispelling myths, misconceptions and misinformation around the uptake of vaccines and encourage community residents to be vaccinated," he added.
In 2016, UNFPA The Gambia initiated the Family Planning campaign which used amulti-disease approach as an entry-point to Family Planning. This, Camara said, was done through strategic partnerships with the SOS Mother's Clinic for Cervical and Breast Cancer screening, the Gambia Family Planning Association to deliver sexual and reproductive health information and services including modern contraceptive methods and HIV Counseling and Testing.
He revealed that the 2016 campaign also engaged young people in football matches and door-to-door sensitisation on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and created a platform for heads of households to discuss the importance of male involvement in family planning and maternal health through an initiative dubbed the 'husband schools.'
"Having registered significant achievements through this campaign over the past years, UNFPA is bringing back the campaign under a new theme 'I am for Zero', " he said.
According to the 2019/2020 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 10% of women aged 25-49 were first married by age 15 with the percentage of women married by age 18 increasing to 37%. The survey also revealed that 81% of women are married by age 25 with the median age of marriage among women 25-49 being 19.4 years (DHS), indicating a high rate of child marriage with risks of longer lifetime fertility and its consequences on socio-economic development.
With a current Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 4.4 as compared to 5.6 as per the DHS 2013, Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) of 19% compared to 9% in 2013, and unmet need for family planning of 24% amongst married women and 45% among sexually active unmarried women; despite the significant gain, the population will likely double by 2030 if those gains are not sustained.
The I AM for Zero campaign is a follow up to the success of the similar Family Planning campaigns conducted in late 2016 and early 2017 in NBR, WCR, CRR URR AND LRR respectively. The campaign will address the unfinished business in some of those regions, especially targeting young women and men both in and out of schools in hard-to-reach communities in Central River North, the Baddibus in the North Bank Region and the Wuli or Fatoto Area in the Upper River Region (URR).