By ANCILLA WRAKUALE
MEMBERS of Parliament were recently urged to support and implement family planning and reproductive health care services in their respective electorates. This call was made by Marie Stopes PNG (MSPNG)—a not for profit organisation specialised in family planning and reproductive health care.
Marie Stopes PNG held a parliamentary advocacy forum at the State Function Room at the Parliament last month to provide awareness on the importance of family planning and how it can help PNG achieve a sustainable population growth. Parliamentarians were told that family planning is a cost-effective method in helping Papua New Guinea achieve its Medium-Term Development Plan in which population features as a key priority. The MP’s were encouraged to consider implementing this vital health service in their respective electorates in support of the National Family Planning Policy 2014. The vision of that policy is to see all couples and individuals achieve their reproductive goals safely and healthily.
“Increasing voluntary access to comprehensive family planning is the most effective way to reduce rapid population growth and achieve a healthy, sustainable population”, says MSPNG Country Director Maarten van de Reep.
He said family planning also acts as a direct intervention to prevent maternal mortality in which PNG has some of the poor statistics in the region. He said the population has increased by 40 % over the past 10 years and at an average annual growth rate of 3.1 percent will double in size every 30 years. This, he said, represented a great need for family planning to be accessible to all to ensure PNG has a sustainable population growth rate.
“Not only does having access to family planning generate benefits for society as a whole, it also has life changing impacts on individual lives.
In PNG 22 percent of teenagers have had at least one child, and many will drop out of school and marry young. Multiple, unplanned and successive births, especially amongst young women, increase the risk of pregnancy-related deaths by one third, the risk of children born dying before the age of five by 85 percent, and have far-reaching health and social impacts on girls, women, families and communities. Providing access to safe modern methods of family planning can change all this”, said van de Reep.
Marie Stopes PNG also works in close partnership with other organisations like the National Department of Health, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Department of National Planning and Monitoring to ensure successful deliveries of family planning and reproductive health care services in PNG. Representatives from these organisations also shared the same sentiments with MSPNG and urged the parliamentarians to consider family planning into their development plans.
UNFPA Assistant Representative, Dr Gilbert Hiawalyer, said young people make up the bulk of PNG’s population and it is important that family planning be made available for all to use to achieve a sustainable population growth.
“As you look at the population now, the bulk is the youth and they are going to be the parents of tomorrow. We have about 50 percent below the age of 19 and about over 65 percent below the age of 25 and these are young people going to be parents of tomorrow.
“If we don’t address the issues of family planning, how can they decide on making informed choice to plan their family, how many children they want to have and how frequently they want to have. That is important for them to decide because that is going to make a big difference on the population of the future.”
Dr Hiawalyer said the higher the population, the more people will demand for services from the government.
“You are voted in by your voters and they demand schools, they demand health facilities and the demands will increase every year because the population also increases. You can’t just say no to them because the more they demand the more pressure they put on you to deliver. These are the challenges every leader must prepare to face”, he said.
Minister for National Planning and Monitoring, Charles Abel, who has been heavily involved in promoting the government’s new development strategy called National Strategy for Responsible Sustainable Development for PNG (StaRs) – which sustainable population is a key feature of – said population growth is one critical issue that goes to the heart of the development and it’s a cross cutting issue.
“The health of women, children and families are very important in that we give a choice to our girls and women so they plan their families better and become more educated and break the cycle of poverty right down at the micro level.
Deputy Health Secretary, Dr Paison Dakulala, said there is still more work that needs to be done in family planning services. He said there’s about 60-70 percent unmet need for these services. Investing in family planning, he said, goes a long way in helping improve living standards.
“If we invest in family planning, maternal deaths will be reduced by 25 percent, unsafe abortions will be reduced by 74 percent and neonatal (new born) deaths will be reduced by 18 percent. Education will increase, participation in labour force will also increase and earning potential will increase.
The advocacy initiative is part of the project ‘Rights at Every Level” funded by the Danish Government and implemented by MSPNG in seven provinces. This project aims at disseminating the principles and values of the 2014 National Family Planning Policy to government health workers and community leaders. The forum was supported by the PNG Parliamentary Group on Population and Sustainable Development and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
- The writer is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Marie Stopes PNG.