Photo of IntraHealth staff member and an Imam outside a mosque in Kaolack, Senegal, courtesy of Clement Tardif. Through the ISSU project, IntraHealth partnered with religious leaders to dispel family planning myths and encourage men to become more engaged in discussions with their wives about birth spacing.
At the International Conference on Family Planning in Nusa Dua this week, Senegal has been in the spotlight. The Senegalese delegation, headed up by our Minister of Health Dr. Awa Coll Seck, has participated in countless presentations and panel discussions.
Why? Something remarkable has happened in Senegal. For years, like most countries in French-speaking West Africa, Senegal had barely budged in its use of modern contraceptives, despite long-term donor investments. From 1992 to 2011, Senegal’s contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) was fairly stable, creeping up with a gain of only half a percent annually. In 2012, the modern CPR was 12%.
Starting in 2012, however, something began to change. Actually, many things changed. By 2014, the national CPR was 20%. What happened?
I think that three main ingredients have led to the dramatic increase in family planning use over the past few years.
- Strong political will on the part of the government, which developed the first five-year national family planning plan, doubled the investment of domestic resources in family planning, and created a new directorate of family planning and reproductive health.
- Strong partnership through better coordination and collaboration on the part of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders, all of whom synergistically aligned their work with the Ministry of Health’s national plan.
- The introduction of several innovative approaches, including the informed push model, which drastically reduced stockouts of contraceptive commodities; task shifting; and a focus on urban areas and community-level services.
Encouraged by the dramatic progress since 2012, the Government of Senegal has now set a new goal: 45% CPR by 2020. Is it possible? I, for one, believe that it is, but only if strong partnerships between the government and its NGOs partners continue to thrive. I believe that the onus is on us, the NGOs. We need to continue to align our efforts with those of the government and make sure that we’re not duplicating efforts or wasting resources. We must:
- Ensure that our programs and activities are aligned with the priorities of the government and are high-impact and cost-efficient.
- Offer technical assistance to build capacity throughout the health system.
- Advocate in partnership with both the government and local civil society for greater domestic investments in health.
- Work intentionally to strengthen national systems rather than create parallel project-based systems.
- Conscientiously work to support sustainable development and not just short-term project results.
- Advocate globally for more long-term investments in health systems and the health workforce, and not just short-term investments in vertical initiatives.
So, yes, Senegal can lead the way in West Africa to reach its family planning and development goals. But only if all of the partners follow the recipe.