Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s birth rate is one of the highest in the globe ranking 16th out of 225 countries. However, the government’s drive to increasing family planning services but be impaired by the 20 per cent decrease in allocated funds towards the health health budget during the 2018/19 financial year.
Although family planning has become a bigger priority for the country’s health ministry which had committed to top up its family planning budget from 14 billion in 2017/18 to 17 billion by 2020.
But the reality remains far from ideal: Sikika a non-governmental organization working on matters related to youth in reproductive health recently tweeted through its twitter account @Sikika1 that although the 2017/18 family planning budget Sh14 billion but only Sh2 billion had been disbursed by February 2018.
The decrease in health budget means that the country’s family planning drive takes a hard hit. The country’s escalating population increase shows this with The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2018 Projection Report 2018 projecting a 54 million population in 2018. And 44 per cent of this number is under 15 years.
Furthermore, this very high youth population is driving up the country’s fertility rate even more. Tanzania’s adolescent population currently has three times as many more children than their global counterparts.
The 2015–2016 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey shows that Tanzania’s unmet need for family planning stands at 22% among married women aged 15–49 years and 23.5% among young women aged 20–24.
The government’s commitment to expanding access to family planning by raising family planning services budget from Sh5 billion in 2016/17 to Sh14 billion in the current fiscal year came at a crucial time when the US President Donald Trump proposed a budget cut of 50 percent in funding for international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs in developing countries.
However, according to the Ministry of Health Reproductive and Child Health Section of Ministry of Health the estimates for actual costs for family planning commodities for 2017 were Sh36 billion and for 2018 are Sh33 billion.
Speaking to The Citizen, Advance Family Planning (AFP) programme Advocacy Technical Manager Mr James Mlali said demand is still higher than supply, 22 percent of women who need family planning services still do not get them.
According to him, factors behind the situation include stock-outs of the commodities at the facilities, low numbers of skilled family planning providers, and lack of health facilities in rural areas.
Mr Mlali explained that the most used Contraceptive method in the country are injectables. He said Injectables provide women with confidentiality in cases where their spouses are resistant to family planning use.
“However access is limited due to shortage of skilled family planning providers and lack of health facilities in some rural areas. Also, government does not allow Community Health Workers to provide Injectable Contraceptives,” he said.
He noted that Pills are not preferred because they are slightly demanding, one has to be disciplined to take them daily, and also don’t provide confidentiality.
He further noted that Condoms require mutual consent between partners or spouses, a situation that puts women in a disadvantage due to the male dominant culture, while permanent methods are more dependent on availability of skilled family planning providers.