By Abebe Shibru
Ethiopia has made incredible progress over the last 11 years in increasing access to family planning. This has come in tandem with strong progress on Millennium Development Goal 5, with maternal mortality falling from 990 deaths for 100,000 live births in 2000 to 440 in 2013.
In 2000 Ethiopia had a modern contraceptive prevalence rate (modern CPR) for all women of less than 5% but just 11 years that figure had quadrupled to nearly 20%, a truly impressive stride forward for the second-most populous nation in sub-Saharan Africa.
Recognising the vital role of family planning
In the early 2000s the Ethiopian Government and in particular the Ministry of Health recognised the vital role that family planning can play in preventing maternal deaths, delivering on Millennium Development Goal commitments and ultimately improving the health and wealth of families.
They committed to hugely increasing the availability of voluntary family planning services but recognised that they could not achieve this alone and that such a rapid increase in access to family planning would need to be delivered in partnership.
The Ministry of Health developed policies and guidelines that allowed NGOs and private healthcare providers to complement the services being provided by public facilities and play their part in making family planning more widely available. MSI Ethiopia has been providing services to women and men for more than 20 years and is proud to have been able to play a significant role in this transformation.
Our work centres on expanding choice of family planning methods and reaching the most underserved women and men. This approach has proved to be incredibly successful and between 2005 and 2012 the number of women using a modern method of family planning provided by MSI Ethiopia increased by more than 700% from just over 50,000 to more than 350,000.
In Ethiopia much of the growth in national contraceptive use has come from an expansion of access to short-term methods. We have been able to complement this success by ensuring that long-acting and permanent methods, as well as short term methods, are available to the women that want them.
We have estimated that at the time of the most recent Demographic and Health Survey in 2011 we provided one in three of all the long-acting and permanent methods in the country as a whole.
Increasing number and range of family planning services is vital but we’re also proud of the impact that this increase has delivered. Family planning services protect the health and wellbeing of the women that receive them and save Ethiopia’s healthcare system money that would otherwise be spent on treating complications of pregnancy and unsafe abortion.
We’re incredibly proud of the part that we have played in the transformation of family planning in Ethiopia and helping the country to deliver on MDG5. But we know that there’s much more to do and we’re committed to continue working with the Government of Ethiopia and other organisations to ensure universal access to family planning services for women and men who want to use them.
Abebe Shibru is Deputy Country Director and Director of Programs, MSI Ethiopia.
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