Dr Anthony Nsiah Asare, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), has assured partners and Family Planning stakeholders of the Government’s resolve to continue to play a strong leadership role to achieve the country’s targets.
He said the Government had shown commitment by increasing the budget allocation for purchasing family planning commodities and included the service in the National Health Insurance Scheme, which was being piloted.
Dr Nsiah Asare said the Government would “up the game” on family planning by increasing the number of women using modern contraception from 1.46 million in 2015 to 1.93 million by 2020.
This would be achieved through improved access and availability of services at all levels, building capacities, improving contraceptive method mix, and increasing demand for services.
It would further increase modern methods of contraceptive prevalence rate among sexually-active married and unmarried adolescents from, 16.7 and 31.5 per cent, to between 20 and 35 per cent, respectively, by improving their access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.
Dr Nsiah Asare, who gave the assurance at the media launch of the annual Ghana National Family Planning (FP) Week in Accra on Wednesday, said it was interesting that despite the universal knowledge of at least one method of FP in Ghana, with 99 per cent of women and men having this knowledge, uptake was still significantly low, especially among the educated urban dwellers.
He said challenges including unmet needs, myths and misconceptions still existed threatening to erode the gains made over the years, and that those should be addressed by expanding access to information and improving investment for procuring FP commodities for optimal services across the country.
The 2018 celebrations, on the theme: “Family Planning, Everyone’s Responsibility #everydaything#,” calls for a collective role by stakeholders to ensure that safe, effective and accurate FP information and services were made accessible to all Ghanaians.
The celebrations also coincided with the World Contraception Day, which falls on September 26, every year, to promote the vision of a situation where every pregnancy is wanted, improve awareness and uptake of contraception and ensure wider access to FP services.
This would enable individuals and couples to make informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health.
Dr Nsiah Asare said the launch officially began a weeklong celebration of activities by several stakeholders to increase public awareness and to highlight the benefits of FP not only for the individual but to families, communities and the country as a whole.
He called on all, including the media, to be ambassadors and champions of FP to debunk the myths and misconceptions surrounding contraceptive use by providing quality public education.
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director of the Family Health Division, GHS, presenting the FP situation in Ghana, said although some successes had been chalked, there were challenges that called for further attention and investment to achieve government’s own set goals.
He said the current 34 per cent of unmet FP need was too high, with geographical disparities in access still existing among rural and urban dwellers, which, in essence, was pulling down governments overall gains.
The country was still far from achieving its national targets for contraceptive prevalence and the FP 2020 commitments, with only 25 per cent modern contraceptive methods usage among married women, representing just a three per cent increase from the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS) Report of 22 per cent, he said.
He said, on the other hand, the 2014 GDHS had reported a 30 and 42 percentages unmet need for contraception amongst married women, and sexually active unmarried women, respectively.
“This means that one-third of all married women, and almost half of unmarried sexually active women who want to wait for some time to have a child, or do not want to have any more children, are not using any contraceptive method,” he said.
He said FP was a key intervention for reducing maternal deaths by simply preventing unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and decrease in the risk of complications among other things.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye emphasised a collaborative approach towards improving access to accurate information, and the uptake of family planning services, which would lead to a decline in the unmet needs.
He said FP Regional Resource Teams had been established in all regions, which had contributed to the training of more than 4,000 auxiliary nurses to provide implant services in line with the government’s task shifting policy.
It will also help to improve the GHS’s specific social behaviour change communication under the “Good Life, Live it Well” brand to improve access to quality information.
Other interventions include ongoing sensitisation and active recruitment to scale up the users of the GHS mobile application (GHS-Mapp) for service providers from 4,050 to 10,000 by 2020 as well as to recruit 20 per cent of older adolescents between 15 and 19 years mobile phone users unto the YMK adolescent newsletter and information mobile application.
Dr Ismail Ndifuna, the Chief Technical Specialist, Maternal and Family Planning, UNFPA, called on the Government to position family planning at its right place in development planning by increasing investments to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health.