Thousands jet in for family planning conference

More than 3,700 participants will take part in the fifth edition of the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) that starts tomorrow and runs to November 15.

Political leaders, scientists, researchers, faith leaders, policymakers, advocates, and youth will spend nearly a week in Rwanda sharing best practices and discussing next concrete steps to achieve global family planning goals.

At the center of the meeting will be deliberations on identifying next steps toward reaching the goal of enabling an additional 120 million women to access voluntary, quality contraception by 2020.

“The largest academic conference dedicated to family planning, the ICFP serves as a strategic inflection point for the family planning and reproductive health community worldwide,” reads a statement from the organisers.

The theme of the conference is: “Investing for a Lifetime of Returns”. It is all about the huge returns on investments family planning provides, from education and empowerment to economic growth and environmental health.

Conference sessions will focus on the ways in which countries can harness the benefits of the demographic dividend to reap these returns on the macro and micro levels.

The conference is co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Rwanda’s Ministry of Health.

Rwanda is expected to particularly share its highly-praised achievements in family planning.

The country is one of the family planning success stories of recent history; the first 15 years of the 2000s saw great achievements in reducing fertility, and Rwanda’s leadership is believed to have been highly supportive of family planning.

Between 2000 and 2015, Rwanda has been able to reduce the fertility rate from 5.8 to 4.2 per woman. The use of modern contraceptive methods moved from 4 per cent to 48 per cent in the same period.

The total fertility rate is the average number of children a woman gives birth to in their lifetime (it’s different to the birth rate which is the number of children born per thousand people each year).

The conference comes right after ‘The Global Burden of Disease’ study has just been released, highlighting a remarkable global decline in the number of children women are having, globally.

The study, published in the Lancet, followed trends in every country from 1950 to 2017.

In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. The fertility rate all but halved to 2.4 children per woman by last year.

But this rate varies in different countries.

In many African countries fertility rates are still high. In developed countries, on the other hand, fertility rates are very low.

For instance, the fertility rate in Niger, West Africa, is 7.1. Similarly, in Uganda, Burundi, Angola, South Sudan, Chad, Somalia, Mali, and Burkina Faso, women are having more children than elsewhere.

But in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus women are having one child, on average. This is quite similar to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Poland, Puerto Rico, Andorra, Moldova, and Bosnia and Herzegovina where the average fertility rate is low.