Family planning helps women … and slows climate change

Posted January 5, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Featured ~ 10,611 views


UK | By Jotham Musinguzi | Regional Africa director of Partners in Population and Development | The Guardian | With women empowered to plan their pregnancies, the world’s population will grow more slowly, as will carbon emissions.

We’ve long known that giving women the family planning services they want and need would be a boon for the health of families throughout the world. Today, in every country, far too many go without. Short spaces between births can make women more vulnerable to poverty, illness and even death. This is a human rights and health issue for hundreds of millions of women around the world.

In my home country of Uganda, women with an unmet need for family planning face major challenges. Among them are distances to health clinics, the costs of contraceptives, the hostile attitudes of some demotivated health providers, socio-cultural barriers, and a lack of supplies.

Mrs Kizito, 29, a mother of six, travelled 7km from her home in rural eastern Uganda to her nearest clinic for a check-up and her next dose of contraceptive pills. After her regular blood pressure check, she was told by the nurse that the type of pills she normally takes were not in stock. Her second and third next most suitable alternatives were not available either.

Instead, she was offered male condoms and advised to persuade her husband to use them until her regular stock of contraceptives were available – at least a few of months. She returned home, not knowing whether she would convince her husband to use the condoms, and well aware of her husband’s ambivalent attitude towards family planning.

These challenges, however, are solvable. Take Mrs Kyomugisha, 24, a mother of three from rural western Uganda, 10km away from the nearest health centre. Four years ago, Family Health International (FHI), an NGO working with Uganda’s ministry of health, began providing family planning services.

Kyomugisha narrates how she and her husband had been stressed by the coming of their three children one after another, until the visit of a community health worker shortly after the birth of their third child. The health worker explained that injectable Depo-Provera was now available.

Mr Kyomugisha said this was the best news they had heard for a long time. Since then, the family has used the injectable method to prevent additional pregnancies. Voluntary family planning allowed the Kyomugishas to fulfil their wishes for the size of their family, while reducing pressure on their limited family food supply.

Where voluntary family planning is available, families are empowered. Where it is not, the lack of access takes a heavy toll. In Uganda, 435 women die for every 100,000 babies born. Dying as a result of pregnancy is the leading cause of death for women. High maternal death rates such as Uganda’s are an indicator of an inadequate healthcare system, which is clearly a violation of women’s fundamental rights to life, health and self-determination.

This violation is not a complicated puzzle to solve: investing in access to voluntary family planning reduces maternal deaths by up to 40%. And meeting the demand for birth control – enshrined by the UN as a millennium development goal – would enable dramatic progress in achieving not only the maternal health development, but all the other MDGs as well.

We now know that meeting women’s needs for family planning not only strengthens the health and rights of families around the world, but will also help slow dangerous climate change.

Recent research suggests that simply meeting existing “unmet need” would deliver up to one-seventh of the carbon reductions essential to slow global warming, and at a very low cost. With women empowered to plan their pregnancies, the world’s population grows more slowly, as do carbon emissions.

We have an opportunity to address two critical objectives at once: improving the health and lives of women and children and, simultaneously, helping to slow dangerous climate change. In addition, we need to remain aware that poor countries with the least adaptive capacity are expected to suffer most from the adverse effects of climate change, including hurricanes, devastating floods, and melting ice caps.

Any strategy that enhances human health, dignity and empowerment while also reducing global warming is not just advisable, it’s essential at this stage. There is no time to lose.

Of course, it is naive to think any single idea or programme will yield the results we need to address global climate change. Yes, wealthy, industrialised countries must reduce their consumption; yes, nations around the world must reduce dependence on fossil fuels; yes, we must develop more effective, environmentally sustainable technologies, and yes, use energy more efficiently.

But it’s time to pursue all possibilities and combining efforts. The facts are clear: funding that empowers women to access voluntary family planning is a win-win for women, men, children and climate change.

Jotham Musinguzi is the Regional Africa director of Partners in Population and Development |

Article Source: The Guardian.

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.



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