Malawi Govt committed to increasing access to modern family planning- Kachale

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Malawi’s Director of Reproductive Health at the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care Dr Funnie Kachale has attributed the emerging of Malawi as leaders in improving women’s access to contraception to Government’s commitment.

Over the last two decades, through a mix of demand-side and supply-side interventions and data-driven strategies, Malawi has emerged as a leader in improving women’s access to contraception.
Women in Malawi have roughly double the rate of modern contraceptive use (58%) when compared with women across the rest of sub-Saharan Africa (29%). This access to and use of contraception has helped Malawi improve women’s health and socioeconomic wellbeing.

Malawi has faced significant hurdles in its journey to improve access to family planning. In 1983, the country had only two family planning clinics, and the nation is overwhelmingly rural, complicating distribution.

Nevertheless, Malawi has succeeded in making a range of contraceptive choices – including self-injectables and long-acting reversible contraceptives (implants and intrauterine devices) available across the nation – including the 85% of the population living in rural areas. The country has even been able to reach adolescents, a traditionally difficult population to serve, with contraception services.

Speaking during this week’s International Conference on Family Planning in Thailand, Dr Kachale said the Government of Malawi had set a goal of 60%.

“To achieve that progress, the Malawi government made several commitments at the London Family Planning Summit of July 2012. Some of the commitments were to elevate the Reproductive Health Unit to become a Reproductive Health Directorate, create a family planning budget line item, and finalize the Population Policy by the end of 2012,” She said.

She continued to say that in 2013, the government created a budget line item specifically for family planning and committed to increasing it gradually. The funding started small at K26 million and reached MK 200 million (nearly US$200,000) for the financial year 2020-2021.

According to Dr Kachale, for the 2022-2023 financial year, the government’s committed funding for family planning is 475 million Malawian Kwacha (about US$463,000).

She added that the government also engaged in task shifting to ensure that contraceptives were available through a larger number and greater variety of health providers.

“For example, Malawi has long had community health workers, called Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs), who serve their communities in a specified catchment population. This cohort debuted in the 1950s as child vaccinators. In 2007, the government added modern contraception (specifically the injectable DMPA) to the basket of services they provide, in addition to motivating and educating women about family planning. We also have community-based distributor agents who go door-to-door motivating women on family planning, offering oral contraceptives and male and female condoms, if it is the method of choice chosen,” She was quoted.

Kachale further said the government recognized the key role that supply chains play in family planning. Women want protection all year, not just for three months at a time. So, the government established a steering committee, with representatives from all partners involved in supply, to cooperatively manage product procurement and discuss product pipeline and manage stock status. We work hard to make sure commodities are available when women need them.

She explained, “We participate in the Global Family Planning Visibility Analytical Network, that allows us to see what products our partners are buying on our behalf, and monitor the flow of contraceptive commodities from the manufacturer to our country, and then we can plan distribution and minimize stockouts and product expiration.”

Malawi also rolled out access to self-injection nationally and developed youth friendly health services in its effort to increase access to Family planning methods.

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