By Ephrem Berhanu
The International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) will be held in Pattaya City, Thailand from 14-17 November 2022. The theme of the conference is “Family Planning & Universal Health Coverage: Innovate. Collaborate. Accelerate.” The theme highlights importance of family planning to ensure universal health coverage. Creating access to good family planning and sexual reproductive health services not only improves health outcome s but also fuels robust economic development.
Since the first ICFP conference held in Kampala, Uganda in 2009 it has got momentum in bringing the issues of family planning to decision makers and its importance to health and economic wellbeing of a nation. Ethiopia hosted the third conference 2013 following the successful launch of Family Planning 2020 (now FP 2030) during the 2012 London Summit on Family planning. It brought together more than 3,400 delegates to celebrate progress made towards achieving “Full Access, Full Choice”. It was organized in Ethiopia having seen its achievement in advancing access to family planning.
Investing on family planning, is for a lifetime of returns from health, education and empowerment to economic growth and environmental health.
What is family planning
Family planning allows couples to have informed decisions regarding spacing pregnancies and number of children that they want. It has a lot to do with the improvement of health of mothers, children, family, and community. Couples who have adequate knowledge about family planning will be able to space pregnancies at the recommended time that will give them time to care for the new baby. Family planning consists of wide arrays of contraceptives, including implants, pills, surgical procedure to limit fertility, intrauterine device (IUD) and condom. Family planning can also include abstinence and calendar method.
Brief family planning context in Ethiopia
According to UN Population Projection 2022, Ethiopia had a total population of 121,599,592 with an annual population growth rate of 2.57%, the total fertility rate, or the average number of children per women over the course of her lifetime is 4.1. Women of reproductive age constitute 23% of the population (Mini EDHS 2019).
The Ethiopian government made a commitment to increase family planning finance from the government budget which used to heavily dependent on foreign funding, improve contraception and commodity security, improve access to adolescent and youth responsive health system for contraceptive use with the aim of reducing teenage pregnancy among adolescent girls from 13% to 7% by 2025 and 3% by 2030, ensure availability of quality family planning and services. (FP 2030 Ethiopian Government Commitment)
Demographic divided will be witnessed when the country’s population characteristics changes because of demographic transition. Demographic transition will happen when a country manages to have decreasing level of mortality and fertility which leads to elongated lives and lower average number of births per women. As we can see from the above facts, Ethiopia annual fertility rate is 4.1 and it used to be 7.2 in 1990. The transition will be happening in different stages during which population growth first accelerates and then slows down. The transition results changes in the population structure by age with a gradual increase in the share of older population. The reduction in fertility at the intermediate stage of the transition, the relative size of the birth cohorts begins to decline.
The working age population growth outpaced that of the children and older age people provides opportunity for accelerated economic and social transition to sustainable development known us the “demographic dividend”. For this result to materialize
This is where family planning is doing its magic through helping countries to change population age structure from the combination of decline in both child mortality and fertility. This will result in broaden the working age population which paves that way for rapid economic growth. To harness the benefits of demographic dividend countries are required to make investments on human, social and physical capital including health and education. The benefits of family planning include saving lives of women and children, offering women more choices. When population growth becomes slower and manageable it contributes for the demographic transition but also will help in protecting the environment.
Hence, countries need to promote voluntary family planning, allocating resources for family planning commodities, training health professional and community-based health workers to support and counsel women and their spouse about the different options available, and most importantly comprehensive sexuality education in schools.
Ephrem Berhanu, is the managing director of one of the largest youth development organizations in Ethiopia, Talent Youth Association.