blog
October 19, 2011

Surviving Somalia: Can family planning help?

Sarah Lindsay

Ministries of health are the backbone of a country’s health system, creating policies and providing services to reach the most vulnerable populations. But what if a country does not have a health ministry? Or a government for that matter?

The health outcomes for people living in a failed state were clearly on display Monday at Aspen Global Health and Development’s “Lessons from the Crisis in Somalia.” Part of the 7 Billion: Conversations that Matter Series, the event was spurred by Mary Robinson’s, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice, recent trip to Somalia. She had previously visited the country as President of Ireland during the 1992 famine affecting the horn of Africa and told the audience, “What struck me going back was that everything was worse.”

Women and children were the ones Robinson saw taking the brunt of the brutal conditions. While en route to visit Dadaab, a refugee camp just across the Kenyan border, Robinson passed women walking incredible distances with their children in search of assistance.   As Robinson spoke further with these women she discovered that not one of them had less than six children.

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October 17, 2011

Joy Phumaphi: We were not immunized

John Donnelly

As originally seen at Global Post.

Joy Phumaphi began public service in Botswana as a local government auditor. From 1994 to 2003, she went on to serve in Parliament and then became Minister for Health in the midst of the country’s AIDS crisis. She later became the Assistant Director General for Family and Community Health Department at the World Health Organization and the Vice President of the Human Development Network at the World Bank. She currently is on Aspen Global Health and Development’s Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health. Phumaphi spoke to writer John Donnelly about the key role of community health workers in introducing family planning and saving lives and the far-reaching impact of a letter from a seven-year-old boy named Kenneth.

How did you get started on issues of women’s reproductive health?

It started at the beginning. I was born in a rural village. Households in Botswana had three homes. There’s a home in the village, a home in a place where they plowed the land, and a third place where they look after their cattle. Botswana is the size of Texas and at the time when I was born it was a population of 1 million. Now we have 1.8 million. I was not born in a medical facility. I was born in the place where we did our farming. It was in October, and my grandmother was the midwife.

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October 17, 2011

Joyce Banda: "Women lacked training, credit and information"

John Donnelly

As originally seen at Global Post.

Joyce Banda has served as vice president of Malawi since May 2009. The country's first female vice president, she previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Gender, Children's Affairs and Community Services. Before entering politics, Vice President Banda was a grassroots gender rights activist. She is currently a member of the Aspen Global Health and Development’s Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health. Banda spoke to writer John Donnelly about how a relationship with a friend during her childhood propelled her to work for women’s rights.

What is your motivation in getting involved in reproductive health rights for women?

There are many things. It started when I was young, and it is related to poverty, education, and women’s rights overall. I was privileged because my father was a policeman and we lived in town. Many people in Malawi are from typical villages. My grandmother insisted I should be in both worlds, and so I needed to be acquainted with village life. Every Friday, she would send me home to our ancestral village, and my very good friend Chrissy would meet me by the road. She wanted to hear about town life, and I wanted to hear about village live. She would show me how to pick wild foods. Anything rural, she would teach me.

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October 14, 2011

Senegalese government supporting ‘small revolution’ in family planning

Sarah Lindsay

In 1990, the average Senegalese woman had 6.7 children during her reproductive years. By 2009, that number had significantly dropped. According to the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Senegalese women are now, on average, having 4.8 children during their reproductive years. This reduction, taking place over a span of almost 20 years, has been a long time coming as the Senegalese government has been encouraging family planning utilization across the country in state-run hospitals and clinics. In fact, the Ministry of Health and Prevention has doubled its budget for reproductive health. And within the reproductive health budget, UNFPA reports that the proportion donated to family planning has also been doubled.

Attitudes around family planning use are changing across Senegal, IRIN news reports. “There is a small revolution going on - husbands and imams who were traditionally against any kind of family planning are slowly starting to accept it,” said Ephie Diouf, 31, a child-minder in Dakar. Not only have some religious leaders’ individual attitudes changed, but their outreach to the community regarding family planning is also evolving. Catholic and Muslim leaders are educating people that spacing births by using contraceptives is not against the Bible or the Koran. A midwife from Senegal reported that her local imam now tells families that, “Family planning is not banned in Islam… Religion is about well-being, and spacing children is part of that.”

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October 13, 2011

Dr. Sadik: MDGs require women to have 'autonomy over their sexual health'

Sarah Lindsay

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was a ground breaking conference where 179 countries recognized that the empowerment of women was a major step towards alleviating poverty and stabilizing population growth. The Programme of Action that resulted from the conference was reflected in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in many areas such as gender equality.  However there was one glaring omission from the main goals of the MDGs: universal access to reproductive health and family planning.

At the Woodrow Wilson Center’s event “Strengthening the Voices of Women Champions for Family Planning and Reproductive Health,” Dr. Nafis Sadik called attention to the fact that the MDGs included universal access to reproductive health as one of the sub-targets of MDG 5: Improving Maternal Health, instead of as a goal itself. The exclusion of universal access to reproductive health as an MDG is a grave oversight, Dr. Sadik, special adviser to the UN Secretary-General and special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia, told the audience because, “Most goals require women gaining autonomy over their sexual health.”

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