Malawi will be among the 27 developing countries to benefit from a £200 million (about K198 billion) programme funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) to enhance family planning services.
In Malawi, the DfID flagship Women’s Integrated Sexual Health (Wish) will be implemented by Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) and the Ministry of Health to expand sexual reproductive health (SRH) services, while at the international level, the programme will be led by International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Maries Stopes International.
In an interview on the sidelines of the ongoing International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Kigali, Rwanda, IPPF Wish executive project director Heidi Quinn said the Wish project and services will run for three years.
She said: “The Family Planning Association of Malawi is currently mapping out the areas of need for SRH services and are forming plans to start up the project in Malawi in consultation with key stakeholders in country such as the Ministry of Health and DfID.”
Quinn said the project will provide integrated and holistic health care to ensure equitable access to family planning and SRH rights with a focus on underprivileged women and girls.
The new programme comes in the wake of this year’s Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) report showing that efforts to expand family planning services to 120 million more women and girls globally by 2020 will fall short, including in Malawi.
It also follows United States government’s reintroduction of an expanded Global Gag Rule (GGR), which prohibits United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) funding to organisations whose work involves provision of abortion care, and the withdrawing of US funding to the UNFPA, which may impact some reproductive health programmes.
FPAM executive director Thokozani Mbendera said in an earlier interview that the gag rule would prevent FPAM, a leading sexual and reproductive health organisation in Malawi, from effectively providing services to underserved communities.
He said: “The gag rule in Malawi will greatly affect negatively the members of the community that we serve. It will limit sexual and reproductive health services and disrupt many critical partnerships. The need for access to family planning, post-abortal care and HIV and Aids services is extremely high in Malawi, and the gag rule will limit the ability of the organisation in terms of funding and collaboration.”
But asked whether the Wish programme is to cover for the deficit created by effects of the gag rule, Quinn said Wish is a UK Government initiative as part of its commitment to SRH services and FP2020 targets.
“The programme predates the GGR and will address the needs for integrated healthcare around sexual and reproductive health and rights in Malawi,” she said.
The Wish programme was announced on Tuesday at the fifth ICFP, which has bought together over 3 700 delegates from 110 countries to discuss ways to expand reproductive health services, particularly to millions of women and girls in low income countries who want to avoid or delay pregnancies but cannot access modern contraceptives.
Since the launch of the FP2020 goals at the London Summit of Family planning in 2012, an estimated 317 million women and girls globally are now using a modern form of contraception, 46 million more than in 2012.
Locally, the FP2020 report published this week, titled FP2020 Catalysing Collaboration, shows that over 2.1 million women in Malawi now use modern contraceptive methods, up from 1. 4 million in 2012, but that the country and other target countries will not meet the target of reaching an extra 120 million women by 2020.
The theme for this year’s ICFP is Investing for a Lifetime of Returns, which seeks to increase sexual reproductive health services to young people. About 600 youth delegates from across the globe are attending the conference.