MLI Newsletter - December 15, 2011

December 15, 2011

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High-level meeting links economic growth to family planning

At the Second International Conference on Family Planning, MLI co-organized a high-level meeting between Ministers of Health, Finance, Planning, and Social Development to address how the demographic dividend can improve their country's economic growth and development. At the full day meeting, "Realizing the Demographic Dividend to Accelerate Economic Growth," ministry leaders discussed population dynamics in sub-Saharan African countries and how governments are trying to cope with rising public expenditures to meet the needs of their citizens. The demographic dividend arises from a country's ability to position a growing youth population to be the driver of future economic development. This requires investing in family planning to manage population growth at sustainable levels so that the health of children and mothers can be met. Additional government investments in the education of both girls and boys can prepare all young people to enter the work force.

One stand-out presentation at the meeting was by Hon. Dr. Cornelius T. Mwalwanda, the deputy minister of finance in Malawi, who imagined babies born into dire poverty this year to be asking, "What have we done to be born into these conditions?" Mwalanda's dramatic presentation emphasized the need for investment in family planning as critical to economic development. This is a turning point, MLI director Rosann Wisman writes on MLI's Leading Global Health blog. "Building on the foundation of the Cairo agenda, the Dakar discussion created a new frame for advocating family planning as both a key to women's health and a key to economic development. And it will be advocates in the ministries of finance, such as Malawi's Mwalwanda, who will help lead the way in the future."

The meeting was hosted by the World Bank, US Agency for International Development (USAID), UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Partners in Population and Development, Africa Regional Office (PPDARO).

Country ownership message met with enthusiasm at closing plenary

At the International Conference on Family Planning's closing plenary, one speaker stood out with a message relevant across all sectors. State Minister Kesetebirhan Admassu of Ethiopia's Federal Ministry of Health spoke directly to African governments saying, "We need to have the guts to say 'no' to donors and projects that are not aligned with national plans." Stressing the need for countries to be in the driver's seat, Admassu spoke about Ethiopia's family planning success: "Our contraceptive prevalence has risen to 29 percent from 14 percent in 2005. This would not have happened without country ownership and strong leadership." Ethiopia's leaders have been successful in implementing health programs to reach every corner of the country through their model Health Extension Workers (HEW) program. Instead of running multiple pilots to appease donors, the Ministry scaled up the program in just four years, employing 38,000 HEWs in rural areas capable of administering contraceptives such as injectables and IUDs. Using Ethiopia's success story as an example, Admassu stressed the need for the governments in attendance to lead and guide donors, ensuring that partners' priorities match and facilitate those set by the ministries.

More on Admassu's speech and his five strategies for success, can be found on MLI's Leading Global Health blog.

Daff shares successful MLI Advocacy Inside Ministries (AIM for RH) strategy

As co-chair of the International Conference on Family PlanningDr. Bocar Daff, director of Senegal's Reproductive Health Division (DSR), was placed in the international spotlight. Embracing his influential position, Dr. Daff explained how such opportunities can be used for family planning advocacy in his presentation, "Advocacy Inside Ministries: How Ministerial Leaders Can Advance Reproductive Health and Family Planning Policy." It is important, Dr. Daff told the audience, for ministry leaders to use advocacy to get the attention of government officials. Over the past couple of years, with the support of MLI, Dr. Daff has been raising the profile of reproductive health inSenegal's Ministry of Health, Public Hygiene and Prevention. And it has paid off. Not just in the Ministry, but at the highest levels of the Senegalese government. At the conference's opening plenary, President Adoulaye Wadepledged $500 million CFAs (roughly US $1 million) for the procurement of contraceptives. This increased the DSR's budget by 15 percent.

"For some time now, we really could not say that there were champions of high level family planning advocacy. As of yesterday [at the opening plenary] we have seen a reversal of this trend with the President," Dr. Daff said. Determined to advance RH policy and practice in his country, Dr. Daff is currently in the process of transitioning his division to a full directorate in the Ministry, with a budget that allows for a much more ambitious agenda to improve reproductive health in Senega

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