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"Reducing Unmet Need For Family Planning Will Reduce High Levels Of Pregnancies/Abortions"-Dr Appiah


Executive Director of the National Population Council, Dr. Leticia Adelaide Appiah says reducing unmet need for family planning will help reduce the high levels of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal and neonatal morbidity in Ghana.


According to her, it will also reduce mortality with accompanied health and financial benefit likewise the population growth rate.


Addressing Journalists in Accra on Thursday ahead of the 2022 World Population Day Celebrations slated for July 15, she said "Data from the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS), unmet need for family planning stands at 30%.  Reducing unmet need for family planning will reduce the high levels of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality with accompanied health and financial benefits and a reduction in the population growth rate"


"One of the consequences of lack of prioritization of reproductive rights and choices is high unmet need for family planning. Unmet need for family planning measures the gap between woman’s reproductive intentions and their contraceptive behavior"


Dr. Appiah also mentioned child marriage and other teen pregnancies as another manifestation of the lack of prioritization of reproductive rights and choices for cultural reasons.


"Child marriage disproportionately affects young girls with far reaching consequences that negatively impacts not only the lives of children who are married, but also the lives of those around them and the nation at large"


Dr. Appiah stressed that when girls marry young before their minds and bodies are fully developed, they get pregnant before they become adults.

 

Touching on pregnancy, she described it as a number one cause of mortality among girls aged 15-19 worldwide.


Dr. Appiah also hinted that child marriage and teen pregnancies reinforce the gendered nature of poverty whose impact extends throughout a girl’s adult life into the next generation.

 

"Prioritizing sexual and reproductive rights and choices of women in Ghana and Africa by decisively tackling child marriage, teen pregnancies and unmet need for family planning will improve maternal and child health and well-being at a reduced health, social, environmental and economic costs"


"This will significantly reduce the unsustainable level of population growth rate in Africa and Ghana. It will help produce fewer healthier young people and increase the proportion of skilled workforce leading to accelerated socio-economic development"


She added that it is important that policy makers, implementers and takers appreciate the health, social, environmental and economic benefits of prioritizing reproductive health and services.    


"This in my opinion will help bridge the inequality gaps, improve the health of citizens, free up funds for relevant quality education and skill acquisition and make it easier to build a resilient future for all"


Dr. Leticia Adelaide Appiah mentioned that child marriage, teen pregnancies and unmet need puts strain on family and national income whiles increasing family and national expenditure mainly on consumption to the disadvantage of production.

 

"Ignoring these seemingly harmless small issues is akin to the little foxes that spoil the vine in the bible. Songs of Solomon 2 vrs 15. Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom"

 

As the world population hits 8 billion, for Africa to reduce its population growth rate to sustainable levels for national development, Dr. Appiah called for a concerted effort at reducing or eliminating child marriage, teen pregnancy and unmet need for family planning.


She added that the call should attract attention and commitment from all stakeholders especially the Media, Economists, Traditional, Religious and Political Leadership.


"For sustainable socio-economic development of Ghana and Africa, sexual and reproductive health policy should and must be seen and treated as an economic policy and a security policy"


Dr. Appiah told Journalists that globally, United Nations World Population Prospects recorded 139,821,086 births and 60,119,439 deaths in 2021.


She added Europe welcomed 4,047,432 births and recorded 5, 186,787 deaths whilst Africa had 49, 034,104 births and 13, 378,519 deaths.


"Nigeria, our big brother, welcomed 8,424, 582 and buried 2, 777,541 according to the United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Population Division in 2021"


In Ghana, Dr. Appiah revealed that birthsin 2021 alone stood at 1,053,400 and deaths 288,378.


She explained that the difference between births and deaths is the net increase Europe’s population decreased by over a million people and Africa’s increased by over 35 million in 2021 alone with Ghana contributing over 700,000.

 

The Executive Director hinted that as the world is hitting 8 billion people; whilst Europe is contributing to slowing down the population growth down to a sustainable level, Africa is rather contributing to its accelerated growth also in an unsustainable fashion.

 

Touching on below replacement level fertility, Dr. Appiah revealed that, in Europe ultimately translates into population with fewer young skilled workforce and a larger proportion of older people which poses a threat for economic growth and the maintenance of social welfare systems such as pensions and healthcare.

 

Shae again added that in order for European countries to address its negative population growth rate, many countries in European Union have instituted some social policies promoting fertility, increased age of retirement and organized migration of skilled workforce.    


Additionally, Europe has invented automation and other technologies such as auto-pilot cars, computerized scans and algorithms that respond to customer service inquiries substitute for some activities humans were previously performing to increase productivity and improve lives.

 

On the other hand, fertility rates above replacement level in Africa and Ghana drive fast population growth on the continent.


Dr. Appiah noted that, Ghana is constantly contributing to a large proportion of young people and fewer skilled workforce posing challenges with provision of quality healthcare resources, relevant education, employment as well as sustainable economic growth. 

 

"With high unemployment and majority of people in the informal sector, automation and the use of current technologies could worsen the unemployment situation. A report by McKinsey Global Institute in 2017 revealed that about half the activities people are paid to perform globally could theoretically be automated by 2030 using current technologies."




 On his part, the Country Representative A.I, UNFPA, Mr. Barnabas Yisa said "Prioritizing rights and choices means providing all with adequate information and services to enable them make their own informed decisions and act more efficiently for their own good and the well-being of others."


He added Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and choices are fundamental to bridging inequality and inequity gaps in health, education, employment within and between genders.


He stressed that they are a set of rights that apply to all people in the world, regardless of religion, ethnicity, culture, gender, age or impairment (UNFPA, 2010).


"With regards to the rights, men and women have the right to be informed and have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice as well as other methods, for regulation of fertility for optimal health and economic outcomes"


Sharing his thoughts on high unmet need for family planning, he said "One of the consequences of lack of prioritization of Reproductive rights and choices is high unmet need for family planning. Unmet need for family planning comes about when currently married or sexually active fecund women who want to postpone their next birth for two or more years or who want to stop childbearing altogether but are not using a contraceptive method due to unavailability, inadequate knowledge, cost constraints or cultural barriers"


"Data from the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS) indicates that total unmet need for family planning is highest among the youngest women aged 15-19 years (51 per cent) and lowest among the oldest women aged 45-59 years (14 per cent). Unmet need is only slightly higher in rural areas than in urban areas (31 per cent and 29 per cent respectively). Unmet need is lowest among women with a secondary or higher education (24 per cent)"


This, he said, is in the national interest to prioritize family planning in the health sector in general with a special focus on teen girls with little or no education.

 

Touching on reducing high rates of child marriage, Mr. Yisa said "According to the National Strategic Framework on Ending Child Marriage (2017 – 2026), on the average, one (1) out of five (5) girls is married before their 18th birthday, thus, the percentage of girls aged 20 – 24 years who were married or in union by the age of 18 is 21 per cent nationally"


Explaining further, he noted that, this amounts to 260,000 affected girls in the country.


"Also, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2011, child marriage is prevalent in rural areas compared to urban areas, i.e., 36 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. The data above vividly reveals how child marriage is a profound manifestation of gender inequality. It disproportionally affects girls over boys. Among boys aged 20 – 24 years, only 2 per cent were married before the age of 18 compared to 21 per cent of girls. Reducing child marriage will significantly lower maternal and child mortality and malnutrition"


On teenage pregnancy he revealed, according to the Ghana Health Service, between 2016 and 2020, 555,575 teen pregnancies were recorded; and in 2020 alone 107,023 pregnancies were recorded among girls aged 15 to 19 years.


This, according to Mr. Yisa brings to sharp focus the importance of improving adolescent reproductive health services and information as a cost saving intervention both at the family and national levels.


Mr. Yisa called on government to ensure adequate funding for family planning commodity supply.


"To Reduce Child Marriage through a multi-prolonged intervention to alter social norms and legal framework.

Increase awareness regarding child marriage laws and the consequences of child marriage among individuals, families and communities"


"The Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) which pegs the age sexual consent at 16 years old needs to be amended and increased 18. The Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560), which provides in section 14(2) that the minimum age for marriage is 18 needs to be amended and increased to 20"

 

He also called for women to be empowered educationally, economically and politically to exercise their choice over their bodies and fertility.


"Prioritizing reproductive health and rights for all through access to right information and service are, key areas to transform women in their fertility age to thrive. Negotiating cultures for gender equality, women’s empowerment and human rights required reflective critical and comprehensive approaches."


Background  

Globally, 11th July was set aside for the celebration of annual World Population Day (WPD) in 1989 by the Governing Council of the United Nations in all countries.


The celebration calls for critical analysis of relevant population and its related issues that supports or hinders accelerated socio-economic development for national attention and action.


The global theme for this year’s celebration is “A world of 8 billion: towards a resilient future for all, harnessing opportunities and ensuring rights and choices” and our national theme is ‘Prioritizing rights and choices; harnessing opportunities, the road to a resilient future for all.’

 

Story by: Joshua Kwabena Smith  


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