Senate summons PM Ngirente over family planning strategy

Rwanda's new Prime Minister, Edouard Ngirente. File

The Senate has called for the Prime Minister to appear in the House to explain what the government will do to improve awareness about family planning and make modern contraceptive methods more available to citizens.

Senators made the decision to invite the Premier, Dr Edouard Ngirente, following an assessment made by the senatorial Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Human Rights and Petitions.

The committee, which in February and April this year assessed what the government is doing to encourage Rwandans to adopt family planning, presented its report to the Senate last week.

It has concluded that better coordination of family planning services is needed and that funding for awareness campaigns in the area remains minimal.

The chairperson of the senatorial Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Human Rights and Petitions, Gallican Niyongana, told The New Times last Thursday that the Prime Minister will be asked to explain what the government will do to bring about better planning, more coordination, and better funding for family planning programmes.

“We want to ensure that family planning remains a top priority for the government in all its aspects,” he said.

Under the country’s Vision 2020, the population will be growing at 2.2 per cent rate every year and the fertility rate by then will have to be three children per woman, down from the current 4.2 children per woman.

Niyongana said that reducing the fertility rate will require the government to heavily invest in sex education and make contraception services more available to the population unlike in the current situation where there is about 19 percent Rwandans who need family planning services but can’t access them.

“Family planning is a key for development. In all areas; whether it’s the economy, social welfare, security, human settlement, or environmental protection, there is nothing you can achieve without taking good care of family planning,” he said.

Population growth in Rwanda is currently at 2.6 per cent per year with 47 per cent of Rwandans who need family planning currently using modern methods of contraception.

But the target under the government’s family planning policy adopted in 2012 was 70 per cent use of modern methods of contraception by 2016.

The Rwandan government has pledged that by 2020, family planning services will be available in all the country’s villages (14,841), with 45,000 health workers facilitating citizens to access the services.

But Niyongana’s committee found that the health workers don’t provide all the services needed for family planning and that they often need to rely heavily on advice from health centres.

“They can’t provide all services and most of the time citizens need to go to health centres that are often far from their communities,” he said.

With more than 50 per cent of the Rwf5billion used to provide family planning services in the country every year coming from donors, mostly the United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations Population Fund, senators want the government to tackle funding issues for family planning campaigns.

They say that districts rarely include expenses for family planning services in their budget proposals, preferring to spend money on non-social projects like building roads and schools.

The Director General of the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), Yusuf Murangwa, told the senators that the country needs to heavily invest in family planning programmes if it is to achieve its development targets.

Murangwa told the senators that managing population growth is not easy and family planning programmes have to always be strengthened.

“Whatever we are doing is catch up; that’s why we have to move very fast,” he said.

Under the country’s Vision 2050, Rwanda is projected to be a high income economy when every Rwandan will be earning at least $12000 a year and leading a high standard of living.

Experts, including Murangwa, say that achieving the dream will require making serious investments in family planning.

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