Ethiopia claims to have more-than doubled the number of women using modern contraception between 2006 to 2011, All Africa reports.
The government trained 38,000 health extension workers to go to the farthest villages and disseminate family planning information to women and families, according to Kesetebirhan Admasu, the country’s minister of health.
In addition, the government is in the process of mobilizing three million women volunteers, dubbed the Health Development Army, to educate even more people.
Although the initiative is working, as of 2011, only 29 percent of Ethiopian women were using modern contraception.
The issue isn’t Ethiopian women’s disinterest in contraception, but rather, a problem of getting the word out to women regarding where they can receive contraception. The problem is especially difficult in isolated, rural areas of the country.
“Ethiopia has its sights set on becoming a middle-income country in about a decade and we know that family planning is critical to getting there,” Admasu said in All Africa.
“When people can determine the number and timing of their children, the toll of maternal mortality lessens. Parents can better ensure their families’ well-being and invest in health and education. The demographic transition that results allows and in fact promotes sustained economic growth,” he said.
Admasu outlined three challenges the country faces in solving what he calls a family planning crisis:
– Available services are not tailored to meeting the needs of adolescents. Thus, childbearing among very young women – and the maternal deaths that accompany it – remains high.
– Contraceptives are often out of stock when women look for them. Therefore, delivery systems need to be improved so the types women want are kept stocked.
– The country has a 50 percent gap in funding for family planning.
In November, Ethiopia will host the Third International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa. Policy makers, advocates and family planning experts will meet to strategize over ways to solve the problems, Admasu said.
These are not easy challenges that will be solved readily,” he wrote. “There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to addressing unmet need, but a solution is possible. To be successful, we must take bold action, and never shy away. We will do so because it’s a cause worth fighting for.”