The stories and conversations highlight resistance to, for instance, modern contraceptive methods, which can be used to space births and allow women to have healthier pregnancies and healthier children.
But what I saw in the King Fahd Hotel in Dakar on February 5, 2015, told another story. It left me with no doubt that family planning is catching on in Senegal. I saw only great enthusiasm and celebration for the country’s achievements over the past three years.
Senegal has witnessed a significant increase in modern contraceptive prevalence rate.
The reason for this excitement and celebration was the national review of Senegal’s National Action Plan for Family Planning 2012-2015. The review spanned two days and involved over 100 people from all levels of the health system, donors, implementing partners—national and international—and visitors from Mauritania and Niger.
Minister of Health and Social Action, Awa Marie Coll Seck, presided.
Senegal developed its national plan in 2012 as a follow-up action from the Ouagadougou Conference in February 2011, and in preparation for the pivotal London Summit in July 2012. At the time, the modern contraceptive prevalence rate was only 12% and the unmet need for contraceptives was almost 30%.
This review was held to take stock of progress, discuss roadblocks to implementation, and seek recommendations for continued progress.
And there has been great progress. Senegal has witnessed a significant increase in modern contraceptive prevalence rate—it grew from 12.1% in 2010-11 to 16% in 2013, and will likely reach 20.1% in 2014 (official results will be released on February 25, 2015). Within urban areas, the rate is as high as 29%, according to the Ministry of Health and Social Action.
This is remarkable progress in a region that has traditionally fallen behind in the movement for greater use of modern contraceptives.
With good counseling, more women are asking about and for family planning.
This level of achievement is also important because the ministry set the goal of 27% modern contraceptive prevalence rate in their plan, which ends this year. There is hope they can reach that goal.
Health providers I spoke with near Thies, Senegal, indicated that “with good counseling,” more women are asking about and for family planning.
So what are some of the factors that have contributed to this success and excitement in Senegal?
First is the ministry’s strong leadership, which is pushing the government and the health system to respond to a growing interest in family planning services and helping create a demand for those services.
The ministry is now:
- Employing and training more health workers to deliver family planning services.
- Testing a new contraceptive commodities delivery system, the Informed Push Model.
- Introducing new contraceptive methods such as Sayana Press and Implanon.
- Creating an enabling environment for the private sector to offer services through mobile outreach, franchises, and social marketing.
- Allowing health workers to provide family planning services closer to community members.
- Supporting a national campaign—Moytou Nef, or “avoid closely spaced births” in Wolof—to increase understanding and acceptance of family planning across the country.
The Spirit of Ouaga
Another factor stems from the participation of two fellow West African countries: Mauritania and Niger.
At a debriefing session with representatives of each country, the ministry, the ISSU Project, and the Ouagadougou Partnership Coordination Unit, our colleagues from Mauritania and Niger were full of ideas on what to adopt from their visit to Senegal and had suggestions for how to strengthen implementation, as well.
They appreciated the coordination unit’s support in attending the review—the opportunity to exchange and learn from one another is, they said, “the spirit of Ouaga.”
IntraHealth is excited to partner with the Ministry of Health and Social Action as it introduces the Informed Push Model, hires midwives to offer family planning services and to mentor other providers, and embarks on the Moytou Nef campaign. We remain committed to progress and recognize the great value family planning offers to overall health and development for Senegal.
Senegal held its review of the National Action Plan for Family Planning 2012-2015 with encouragement from the Ouagadougou Partnership and support from the Ouagadougou Partnership Coordination Unit and the IntraHealth International-led ISSU Project, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. IntraHealth houses the coordination unit, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Hewlett. Photo by Clement Tardif for IntraHealth International.