As we recognize World Population Day on July 11, let's consider the situation of a parent in South Sudan.
Sarah Wala is a 26-years-old mother of two daughters who has seen her share of life struggles. To earn a living, she prepares and sells a local food called Tamia, ground chickpea patties similar to falafel. She also lives with a physical disability stemming from a traffic accident when she was young. This disability means she has not been accepted by all in her community.
But now she says she is stronger after receiving counseling and a voluntary family planning method at the Gurei Primary Health Care Clinic, not far from Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
"I feel good knowing I cannot fall pregnant, I feel free of everything," Sarah said during a recent visit to the clinic. "I can decide my own things. Now I can provide better for my children when one is sick or needs money for school. I did not go to school, but I always talk to my children (to ensure that) they will get educated."
The Gurei clinic is supported by MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience, a five-year, $200 million U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded project led by IMA World Health. The project is part of a suite of innovative MOMENTUM awards designed to holistically strengthen quality voluntary family planning, reproductive health, and maternal, newborn, and child health in host countries around the world. IMA World Health partners with JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc.; Pathfinder International; CARE; GOAL USA Fund; and the Africa Christian Health Associations Platform (ACHAP) to implement MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience activities.
Parallel with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, World Population Day is about universal access to health care, education, housing, sanitation, water, food, and energy, along with addressing key issues like poverty and income distribution, employment, and social protections. But at the heart of all this is the ability of parents to successfully time, space, and/or limit their children, so they may adequately provide for each child's health, education, and wellbeing. Family planning services assist parents with these goals.
Organizations like IMA, JSI, and Pathfinder work to help partnering countries and organizations to address issues highlighted by World Population Day, including family planning. Some examples:
- IMA led the USAID-funded Afya Jijini project in Kenya to support community-based distributors in increasing access to and uptake of family planning methods.
- IMA worked with the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ministry of Health (Rural Health Systems Strengthening Project) in over 50 health zones to ensure a full range of family planning methods, training, accessibility, and increased awareness of family planning's many benefits.
- The private sector has become an increasingly important mechanism for clients seeking sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and supplies, and it is important to track private sector data and insights. JSI's Reproductive Health Private Sector Market Data Pilot will assess practical applications for data and market insights designed to sustain SRH product availability.
- JSI is helping communities to expand contraceptive access and options in Madagascar and other countries through the Access Collaborative. One key is a self-injected product that provides solutions for women trying to maintain consistent family planning care. This is especially important during stresses and disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Pathfinder leads the USAID-funded PREPARE-BURKINA project, which enhances the delivery and accessibility of voluntary family planning and services among vulnerable and marginalized communities in three regions of Burkina Faso.
As family planning programs are implemented, the effects of COVID-19 are inescapable. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) research in March noted an estimated 12 million women had already experienced disruptions to family planning services. Gender-based violence has increased, as has the risk of child marriage and female genital mutilation.
Sarah's story reflects what’s going on in the world and why issues around population are important for all of us. Before leaving the clinic, Sarah had a final comment: "I tell my daughters, 'Look at me. You don't want to go through what I went through. Take care of yourself, protect yourself'."
Because of the work of partners like IMA, JSI, and Pathfinder, mothers like Sarah have a better chance of providing what her daughters will need for healthy, happy lives.