Family Planning

Women, men and children stand in line at the St. Joseph's Health Center in Abricots, Haiti. {Photo credit: Gumy Dorvilmar/MSH.}Photo credit: Gumy Dorvilmar/MSH.

It was 11 o’clock one February morning when the Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haiti (SDSH) project technical team arrived on site at St. Joseph Health Center.

The center’s activities were well underway. Dozens of people sat on benches or stood in line, waiting for their turn. One person comes to care for her child who has had a high fever. Another comes for contraception. Another just gave birth to a healthy infant.

St. Joseph Health Center is located in Abricots, a remote community in the department of Grande’Anse, Haiti, far from Port-au-Prince. Abricots is nearly inaccessible because of rough terrain and hazardous mountain trails.

Since 2007, with support from the USAID-funded SDSH project, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), St. Joseph Health Center has provided a basic package of health services: pediatrics, maternal health, reproductive health, detection and treatment of sexually-transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and family planning.

This free clinic is the only health institution in this hard-to-reach area, serving an estimated 32,000 people.

Speakers at the Inaugural Conference on Global Health, Gender and Human Rights. {Photo credit: PAHO/WHO.}Photo credit: PAHO/WHO.

Health is a human right and should not be denied based on any factor, including gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

On March 21 and 22, 2012, law students, global health professionals, and human rights experts gathered at the Inaugural Conference on Global Health, Gender and Human Rights at American University to discuss tackling global health issues from a human rights perspective.

Co-hosted by the American University Washington College of Law, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Guatemala, the two-day conference focused on six crucial topics: disabilities, women's and adolescent girls’ health, gender identities, older persons, access to medicines, and tobacco control.

Speakers and participants articulated the important role gender and human rights play in the promotion of health around the world.

Dr. Sima Samar speaking on 'How to advance women's rights in developing countries.' {Photo from World Bank webcast, March 5, 2012.}Photo from World Bank webcast, March 5, 2012.

On Monday, March 5, 2012, everyone from policymakers to students gathered at the World Bank for a Special Event on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Women’s Rights.

CEDAW is a treaty that has been ratified worldwide by all but six countries --- the United States, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, and two small Pacific Island nations (Palau and Tonga).

The event was hosted by Caroline Anstey, Managing Director of the World Bank, in conjunction with the Nordic Trust Fund, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, and the United Nations Foundation.

Video that highlights the work of thousands of Tanzanians---mostly women---working as accredited community drug sellers operating in rural areas.Video that highlights the work of thousands of Tanzanians---mostly women---working as accredited community drug sellers operating in rural areas.

Today is International Women’s Day, celebrated around the world as an opportunity to look back on women’s accomplishments and look forward to the realization of their full economic, political, and social rights. The United Nations theme for this year, “Empowering Rural Women,” is one that resonates powerfully with MSH’s work.

Mbambu, a midwife at a western Ugandan health center. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Mbambu is a midwife who works at Isole Health Center III in rural Western Uganda. When I had the opportunity to visit with her, she was the only health care provider at the center. Trained as a midwife nine years ago, her passion for her job pours out of her. Since primary school, becoming a midwife "was always my mission,” she said.

A little over a year ago, Mbambu was trained in family planning and reproductive health skills by STRIDES for Family Health, a USAID-funded program in Uganda led by MSH. Prior to the training, the health center could only offer education and basic family planning services.

Now Mbambu educates women who are waiting to have their children immunized or receive antenatal treatment about family planning, healthy spacing and timing of pregnancies, and the benefits of delivering at a health center. Her new skills also empower her to administer basic and long-term family planning services.

Mbambu shared a compelling story that I promised I would share with others:

Women learning about family planning at Bikone Health Center II, Western Uganda. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

This was my first trip to Africa working with a development agency. While I had visited the African continent for personal trips previously, arriving in this context felt different. I was immediately aware of the challenges Uganda is facing. From the crumbling road infrastructure and high incidence of traffic accidents in Kampala, to the mobile phone networks that are pretty reliable while internet access is often spotty, to the prevalence of street children --- I can for the first time see what my local colleagues are up against.

I felt a bit overwhelmed in the first few days. Is there any way we can address all these challenges? Can we make a difference?

Visiting communities and health centers in Kampala, Eastern and Western Uganda -- and seeing first-hand the impact MSH is having across the country -- quickly re-inspired me.

I had the pleasure of meeting a particularly passionate and committed Clinical Officer, Rodger Rwehandika, at Bikone Health Center II in Western Uganda. As a health center II, Bikone is an outpatient facility, but the staff of the facility can also conduct outreach programs to educate and serve the community.

Rodger and his two staff facilitate health education programs at the local schools and also host youth-friendly programs on using condoms.

"Are family planning methods safe?” wondered Mutombo, a community health worker at the Kawama Village Health Center, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga Province. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Cross-posted on USAID's IMPACT blog.

“Don’t they contain a poison?” he added, directing his question to Isaac Chishesa, a community mobilization specialist with USAID’s Democratic Republic of Congo-Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP).

Tough question! One Isaac was not expecting, at least not within a discussion among trained community health workers.

An experienced community health professional, Isaac responded with a smile and said, “Thank you, my friend, for sharing your concern,” affirming the participants’ right to ask questions. “Family planning methods are safe,” he reassured the group. “Based on international quality standards, each method is required to go through extensive testing before it is made available to the public.”

The faces of Mutombo and his peers lit up. They sighed, a collective sigh of relief, and burst out laughing to relieve some of the tension. They all recognized that even though they were dedicated to bringing about improvements in health behaviors, they, like most of their fellow community members, harbored misconceptions and rumors about family planning.

All key indicators for SHTP II improve from FY10 to FY11: Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, third dose (DPT3); Intermittent Preventive Therapy, second dose (IPT2); first and fourth antenatal care visits (ANC1, ANC4); skilled birth attendant (SBA) deliveries; and family planning (FP) visits.

 

All project health indicators for the second phase of the USAID-funded Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II), led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in partnership with the International Rescue Committee, have shown improved performance over the past two years.

On the ground, this means that more people are being immunized against diseases, communities are receiving education on HIV, and lives are being improved.

Cross-posted from the K4Health Blog.

The overhead lights dim and in the dark, the high-spirited rhythm and melodic line of a Malawian song rises and overtakes the quiet buzz of conversation. We are seated in a large auditorium at the International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal and watching the first film focused on the K4Health Malawi project in a festival hosted by Population Services International (PSI).

The film festival is a rich visual and audio break in an intense day filled with technical presentations and serious conversations about what works in programs that promote reproductive health and family planning.

Two women hold a banner at ICASA 2011: Where's the Money for HIV? Credit: MSH.

 

Last week I had the privilege of attending the International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal, where over 2,200 family planning and global health advocates, funders, and supporters gathered to voice support for family planning.

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