Rwanda’s population is expected to double in the next twenty years unless the fertility rate is controlled. A demographic health survey reveals that the average fertility rate has dropped to at 5.5 children per woman from 6.1 children in 2005.
However, this growth rate is overburdening Rwanda’s resources and if continued unchecked could push Rwanda even deeper into poverty.
“Personal capacity has to conform to the country’s economic situation,” Minister for Health, Richard Sezibera said last year at press conference.
Sezibera nevertheless added that personal capacity couldn’t override the economy situation of the country.
One cannot give birth to 10 children just because he has the means to provide for them with the requirements since those children will use the country’s infrastructure which is reliant on the country’s resources,” he advised.
The average number of children per family in Rwanda is five. Despite the efforts by the government to combat rapid population growth through devising policies such as the three children per family policy as well as the use of modern family planning methods such as contraceptives, the message is yet to hit home. In spite of the hurdles ahead, substantial gains have been registered so far been.
Dr. Fidele Ngabo the Director of mother and child health in the Ministry of Health however said that people are accepting family planning initiative positively. This is based on the rise in use of contraceptives over the last few years.
In 2005, only 10 percent used contraceptives. This increased to 27 percent in 2007.
Ngabo noted that there was a lot of fear of contraceptives among many women. This was as a result of false messages being passed around about the drugs and their side effects.
He however dismissed these fears as baseless, adding that it was usually as a result of misuse of the drug or inappropriate choice for the individual.
“Family planning is a recommended practice worldwide. Many people complain but the fact is that they use it wrongly or they take overdose,” He asserted.
He however said that the concept needs a great deal of community education to rid people of the myths that prevent them form using contraceptives.
Doctors also need training on how to effectively counsel those who seek advice on the medication. The medic pointed out that the ignorance of family planning is mostly in rural areas but that the Ministry was going to put more sensitisation efforts to attain the goal of 70 percent use by 2012.
The medical fraternity maintains that the population growth has to be 0 percent, meaning that the number of deaths has to be equivalent to the number of births, adding that the process of enforcing this will start from grassrool level in the Imidugudu (villages).
However in a bid to promote the use of modern methods of family planning, the government has been distributing free contraceptives to women of childbearing age and it has somehow paid off.
A good example is taken from the preliminary data whereby a new national survey conducted last year by Intrahealth, shows a remarkable rise in the number of married women who are using modern methods of family planning from 10 percent in 2005 to 27 percent by last year.
“Whenever I go to a health center or hospital I have been sensitised on the importance of using contraceptives and after trying it out, I think it is important,” Josephine Batamuriza said.
On the other hand more effort is required of the government to sensitize the population both in rural and urban areas on the need to practice family planning.
For example the introduction of comprehensive sex education in schools could be of importance in ensuring that family planning aspect is understood right from schools.
The religious sector also has a big and important role to play in Family planning. However, there has been no serious effort on their part to increase the family planning awareness among their congregations.
The reluctance by some of the religious groups to educate their followers on the importance of family planning looks to be a derailment in the government’s efforts to promote family planning amongst Rwandans.
As citizens sharing the country’s limited resources, the onus is on all of us, especially our opinion leaders to do whatever is in their power and propagate for the use of safe and reliable contraceptives.