Time for action on family planning is now
26 September 2019
Country Director, Marie Stopes PNG
PORT MORESBY - Today is World Contraception Day. Launched in 2007, it seeks to improve awareness of contraception and to enable young people of child-bearing age to make informed choices about fertility choices and sexual and reproductive health.
The use of contraception in Papua New Guinea remains very low. The most recent ‘Papua New Guinea Demographic and Health Survey 2016-18 Key Indicators Report’ painted an alarming picture of family planning.
Despite 85% of PNG’s population living in rural areas, only 35% of contraceptive users live in rural areas, and lesser educated and poorer women are much less likely to use contraception.
Sexually active unmarried women are half as likely to use contraception compared to married women.
Lack of access to and use of contraception inevitably leads to unplanned pregnancies.
Every year, throughout the world, up to 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 are forced to give birth because they do not have access to safe and affordable modern contraception. All these girls are at risk of painful and dangerous delivery that can end in permanent physical damage.
Pregnancy-related deaths are the leading cause of mortality among this age group.
In PNG, as elsewhere, the costs of unplanned pregnancies are substantial.
They increase the burden on already strained health and social services. And on a personal level, they cause significant emotional distress to women and families.
When teenagers become pregnant, their opportunities and choices are often more limited, and their aspirations often unfulfilled.
Children born and raised by teenage mothers are more likely to experience a range of adverse outcomes in life such as delayed developmental milestones, behavioural issues and lower academic performance.
Family planning specialists define ‘unmet need’ for family planning as the proportion of women who want to stop childbearing or space their next child.
The unmet need for family planning includes women who want to postpone their next birth for two or more years, women who want to stop childbearing altogether but do not have access to contraceptive methods or pregnant women whose pregnancy was mistimed or unintended.
The PNG government is in step with the international community and endorses all women, men and girls having access to modern contraceptive methods.
The 2014 National Family Planning policy wants “every child to be well resourced and wanted”, “every individual to be able to achieve their reproductive goals (family size) when and if they decide to have children, safely and healthily” and “to avoid illness, disease and disability related to reproduction.”
Increasing the use of contraception in PNG is not a quick fix.
In the first instance, there is an obvious need to improve access to family planning methods. Organisations such as Marie Stopes PNG, in partnership with the government, make an important contribution in this regard.
Marie Stopes provides family planning services through clinics in major centres (Port Moresby, Goroka, Lae and Mount Hagen), outreach teams which travel to remote districts and villages, embedded family planning nurses in major national and regional hospitals, and working in partnership with the health department to train public health providers throughout the country.
But much more needs to be done, especially if we are to increase contraceptive use among sexually active young people.
Important starting points include increasing sexuality education for young people, increasing accurate information about myths and misconceptions associated with contraceptive use, improving access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, addressing social taboos surrounding youth and sexuality, and addressing gender inequality, including sexual and gender-based violence and coercion.
The United Nations World Population Fund estimates that if the current annual PNG population growth rate of 3.1% is maintained, the population will reach 13 million in 2032.
With almost 60% of the population under 25, this will continue to increase the burden on social services such as health and education, placing further strain on an already fragile economy.
The idea of a ‘national emergency’ is overused, but the potential problems stemming from PNG’s unsustainable population growth cannot be understated.
The time for action on family planning is now.
Hi David - Could you clarify and ascertain the reporting below and reassure Papua New Guineans on the noble intentions of the United Nations Population Fund, WHO and other NGOs which fall under such categories?
Posted by: Corney Korokan Alone | 01 October 2019 at 02:22 PM