Members of the Senatorial Standing Committe on Social Affairs have called for revision of the approach in delivery of family planning services in the country in order to increase its uptake.
The senators were addressing a team of Ministry of Health and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) officials on the Family Planning Technical Working Group.
The team, composed by both government, as well as local and international representatives, was in the Senate to brief the lawmakers on the government’s work in regard to family planning.
Senator Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo said to succeed in family planning efforts, there was need for openness and youth education sexuality.
“You cannot talk about family planning without thinking of education. Begin in schools and families. Why are we not teaching about sexuality? When you talk about sex, people turn it into a joke. It is an issue because we are now jumping to mothers and children but this threatens to be a cycle and it needs to be broken. If you want this programme to work well, start with those who have not given birth yet,” he said.
Ntawukuriryayo pointed out that it was worrying that university students, still have undesired pregnancies when there are enough tools to help them avoid that.
Senator Narcisse Musabeyezu supported the idea of education, pointing out that beginning at the village level would make a big difference.
“We need to change our working method and go straight to the village level, that is where the teacher, the doctor, the local leader lives. How are we using them to advance this programme? This is a very serious issue and everyone needs to own it,” he said.
Musabeyezu noted that though attitudes cannot be changed in a day, progress can be made from aggressively educating the masses.
“We must educate our youth and we need to start it when they are still young. We should be resolute in our approach,” he said.
Catholic Church stand
In a presentation that had been made earlier, Catholic Church run health centers were cited among the challenges because they do not offer modern family planning services.
The Church operates 118 health centers and hospitals in the country.
However, in his explanation, the Head of the Caritas Rwanda Health Department, Dr Jean Bosco Kanani, said that the Church’s position had been misunderstood by many.
“The Catholic Church does not fight family planning. It accepts it and is even a partner in promoting it. When we are teaching about reproductive methods, we teach both the traditional and modern. The only difference is that we can only offer help with traditional methods and we always refer those seeking modern methods to health centers where they are offered,” he said.
The chairman of the Family Planning Technical Working Group, Dr Felix Sayinzoga, said that due to sensitisation programmes, the fertility rate had dropped from 6.1 children per a woman in 2005 to 4.2 children per a woman in 2014/15.
“There are other indicators which I consider as good opportunities for family planning. For instance, 99 per cent of the mothers go to hospital for antenatal tests at least once during their pregnancy, while 91 per cent have assisted delivery at hospitals. This has also greatly improved maternal mortality ratio dropping steadily from 1070 per 100,000 births in 2010 to 210 in 2015.