By Alison Bodenheimer, Francophone Africa Program Officer, Advance Family Planning
[Read en français]
The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) launched its 2014-2020 National Strategic Plan for Family Planning (available online in French) in Kinshasa two weeks ago—the most ambitious step to date in acting on its Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) commitment made in November. Stakeholders in family planning have been calling for the completion of a national family planning strategy since the 2009 Conference on Repositioning Family Planning. The plan lays out the government’s intentions to budget for contraceptives and increase access to a range of modern methods for women in this Central African country of 69 million residents.
The two principal objectives of the Strategic Plan are to:
- Increase modern contraceptive prevalence across the country from 6.5% (in 2013) to at least 19% by 2020 and
- Ensure access to modern contraceptive methods to at least 2.1 million women by 2020.
Advance Family Planning (AFP) has partnered with Tulane University in the DRC since April 2013. AFP and Tulane University first came together last year to support the development of the Strategic Plan and assist the DRC Government’s intention of making a formal commitment to family planning within the FP2020 framework.
The Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine has worked in the DRC for decades and built strong relationships across several key government ministries that are devoted to keeping attention on reproductive health and family planning among other competing issues in the DRC. AFP, housed within the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, specializes in a uniquely targeted and collaborative advocacy approach that is well-suited for the Congolese context. With AFP’s strategic advocacy approach and Tulane’s experience and valuable network of contacts in-country, the partnership has proven fruitful.
In this second year of their partnership, AFP and Tulane University continue to work closely with the Ministry of Public Health, particularly the National Program on Reproductive Health (PNSR), as well as with the Ministries Gender and Planning, to support the achievement of the ambitious goals set by the Strategic Plan and follow-through of the FP2020 commitment to allocate funds to contraceptive commodities. Other advocacy priorities in 2014 include ensuring removal of the existing law that is unfavorable to family planning and replacement with one that is favorable and establishig mechanisms fo better government accountability.
Each objective furthers the aims of the Strategic Plan and works towards achieving the increased utilization rates, which the government will track monitor success of these collaborative efforts. Selecting objectives that align with high-level Congolese aims—one of AFP’s core principles— is a way to ensure that mutual goals are attainable.
The FP2020 commitment
The launch of the National Strategic Plan for Family Planning is a continuation of the momentum created by the DRC Government’s participation in the 3rd International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The DRC was one of only four country delegations invited to present a formal declaration during the closing ceremony. Mr. Kwete Dieudonné, Advisor to the Prime Minister, delivered a strong commitment on behalf of the government, sealing the DRC’s inclusion in the global FP2020 partnership to increase the number of girls and women using contraceptives by 120 million by 2020 (see photo, right).
Highlights of the FP2020 commitment include:
- Increasing the contraceptive prevalence rate from 5.4% in 2010 to 19% in 2020, and tripling the number of users of modern methods, from 700,000 in 2010 to 2.1 million in 2020.
- Executing the newly developed National Strategic Plan for Family Planning for 2014-2020.
- Allocating USD $1 million for the purchase of contraceptives in the national budget. (This financial contribution will gradually increase to align with the implementation of the national strategic plan for family planning, particularly for the purchase of contraceptives.)
- Protecting adolescent girls from early marriage through education, awareness raising, social reintegration, and women’s empowerment programs.
- Reforming laws which pose barriers to responsible parenthood and planned births
A delegation representing the DRC at the ICFP in Addis Ababa included family planning champions
from several government ministries.
The unprecedented level of support at top levels in government and across ministries demonstrated on an international stage bodes well for a united effort to improve access to family planning across the DRC. Mr. Kwete reflects positively on this collaboration: “We have to return in partnership to go further, that is, to go beyond this commitment and move towards concrete action in the implementation of the strategic plan and all that was included in the commitment, ” he said during an interview following the commitment speech. AFP and Tulane, along with their colleagues within the government and civil society, are determined to seize this opportunity to push towards concrete action and create real impact.
Dr. Marie-Thérèse Kyungu (center), Director of the National Program for Reproductive Health, spoke on a
panel of experts during a press conference on the DRC’s FP2020 commitment held at the ICFP.