September 23, 2015

US and Senegalese Investments in Family Planning Are Paying Off

Written by Sara Stratton, assistant program director, IntraHealth International

In Francophone West Africa, acceptance of family planning and use of modern contraception has been increasing over the last four years.

The pivotal conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in February 2011 served as a launching point for the Ouagadougou Partnership and a strong engagement from the nine Francophone countries to reposition family planning within their health systems.

Along with the global initiative of FP2020, there is a strong momentum in the region.  This would not have been possible without the support of the US government.

The US is an important partner in the region. Along with UNFPA, the US is the major supplier of contraceptives and assistance related to strengthening the supply chain (at the country and regional levels).

As the Guttmacher report highlights, family planning saves lives.

There are US government-funded projects working in partnership with ministries of health to strengthen the region’s health system, prepare and retain essential health workers, and create demand for high-quality services so that more women and their partners have access to family planning and contraception, which are live-saving services.

As the Guttmacher Institute’s new report—Just the Numbers: The Impact of US International Family Planning Assistance—highlights, family planning saves lives.

Recently in Senegal, during a visit to clinics and a mosque in a suburb of Dakar, we heard from an Imam—a Muslim religious leader—who had lost his wife in childbirth. Now he is a strong advocate of spacing pregnancies—with the use of modern contraception—to improve the health of mothers and children, and to catalyze economic and social development.

We also heard from health workers who had received mentoring on the insertion and removal of long-acting methods (implants and IUDs). They are now more capable and confident about providing such services to the women in their community who come seeking these modern methods.

Family planning prevents 2.4 million abortions worldwide, 1.9 million of which are unsafe.

In a country where too many mothers and young children still die from preventable causes, family planning is a fantastic launching pad for improving the health of mothers and babies. It significantly reduces the number of families that lose mothers and infants.

It also prevents 2.4 million abortions worldwide, 1.9 million of which are unsafe.

According to the first-ever national study of abortion in Senegal, every year, 51,500 Senegalese women have an abortion. More than half of those procedures result in complications that require medical treatment, which many women never receive. And such complications cost the health system more than providing family planning would.

Access to family planning services and the health workers who provide them can change these numbers in Senegal.

The US government’s investment in family planning worldwide contributes to economic and social development of countries. It leads to smaller families, children who are better fed and better educated, more jobs, and greater overall development. In short, it helps families and communities become healthier, more productive, and more prosperous.

The US has invested $610 million in foreign assistance for family planning. And the Senegalese government is making its own investments as family planning becomes a greater priority than ever. The country has achieved some great successes, such as growing its modern contraceptive prevalence rate from 12.1% in 2010 to 20.1% in 2014.

Now, Senegal’s women and families are benefitting from those investments.

IntraHealth International’s work in Senegal is funded by the US Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Merck for Mothers, and others.