REDUCING the vast unmet need for family planning remains a major challenge in Namibia.
This was said by the Executive Director of Health and Social Services, Ben Nangombe, while commemorating World Contraception Day at the Neudamm campus of the University of Namibia last week.
World Contraception Day aims to promote awareness of contraception and empower young people to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health.
Nangombe said that although one in two women between the ages of 15 and 49 uses some method of contraception, the country is still not meeting the needs of many women.
“This unmet need is typically highest among women in the poorest 20% of households. Without access to contraception, poor women, especially those who are less educated and live in rural areas, are at increased risk of unwanted pregnancy,” he said.
Nangome said the impact of family planning goes beyond health, adding that it is multisectoral and intergenerational.
“It is well documented that improving children’s health and nutrition has the potential to positively influence school performance and behavior. In turn, education is a key determinant of adoption and consistency of family planning services,” he said.
The Namibian Planned Parenthood Association (Nappa) attributes the existing challenges to insufficient and unavailable services in many areas.
Nappa is one of the supporting partners helping the government achieve its national development priorities set out in local development plans, such as NDP5 and the Harambee Prosperity Plan.
The plan calls for inclusive health services, including full access to family planning services as a right of women and girls, which is crucial for healthy living.
Nappa spokeswoman Louise Stephanus said a lack of public awareness of various contraceptive methods, coupled with a lack of service delivery, leads to the persistence of social constraints in many areas.
“The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought new challenges, as the latest staggering numbers for teenage pregnancies across the country have doubled for the 2020 academic year, recording approximately 3,627 cases. a sign that more needs to be done – especially at this time,” she said.
Loide Amkongo, deputy representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said ensuring access to affordable, quality contraceptives and sexual and reproductive health services is a smart economic investment.
“This is even more critical in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which puts women and adolescent girls at increased direct and indirect risk of unwanted and unbearable pregnancy due to lockdowns, service interruptions, ruptures of stock, financial hardship and an increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence,” she said.
According to UNFPA, contraception averted 188 million unintended pregnancies worldwide, resulting in 112 million fewer abortions, 1.1 million fewer neonatal deaths and 150,000 fewer maternal deaths.
The agency says more than 41% of the 208 million pregnancies that occur each year are unplanned.
Nearly half of these unplanned pregnancies end in abortion, according to the UN agency.
UNFPA further estimates that 33 million unintended pregnancies are the result of contraceptive failure or misuse.
It also estimates that up to 16 million adolescent girls, aged 15 to 19, give birth each year, and says pregnancy-related deaths are the leading killer of young women.