Mudede contraceptive howler torches storm

via Mudede contraceptive howler torches storm – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 17, 2014 by Feluna Nleya

RECENT remarks attributed to Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede where he was quoted as advocating for the scrapping of contraceptives, have set tongues wagging with other government officials and women’s rights groups, describing the motion as ill-advised and meant to reverse the country’s health gains.

According to the Press, Mudede claimed that health experts had confided in him that contraceptives had harmful side-effects, hence the need to ban them.

The Registrar-General claimed that contraceptives were killing productive women and affecting the country’s population growth.
Government has since independence invested heavily in family planning programmes, mainly contraceptives to control population growth.

This year alone, government plans to spend nearly $9,9 millon on family planning with the figure set to rise to $12,3 million in 2020.

Other birth control methods include condoms, female sterilisation, implants, traditional and intra-uterine contraceptive devices.

Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa last week said  he would soon engage Mudede for clarity over the discordant policy remarks.

“For our policy, we recommend on the use of contraceptives and women should use contraceptives to their suitability,” Parirenyatwa said.

“There is an array of contraceptives and it depends with the ones which are suitable for the woman in particular.

“There are other ways of contraception like condoms, withdrawal method, oral contraceptives and these depend on what is suitable to one’s cycle.”

Parirenyatwa said contraceptives were also based on how long one would want to space their children.

“Unless our population policy changes, we still need the contraceptives, but if there is need, then we will have to change policies together,” he said.

“I will engage vaMudede so that we talk and hear where he is coming from,” Parirenyatwa, a qualified medical doctor, said.
He also said some of the contraceptives were curative.

In a speech read on his behalf at the launch of a new analysis of the health and economic benefits of planning in Harare yesterday, Parirenyatwa said: “Investing in family planning is investing for the future,” adding that government would remain committed to family planning regardless of divergent views from other quarters.
Other health experts criticised Mudede for advocating for the ban on contraceptives.

“We can’t [have a ban on contraceptives],” the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson on Health and Child Care Ruth Labode said.

“Contraceptives manage and control the family. They help a family to decide not to have babies close to each other and that way they are able to plan for their children on education.

“Family planning does not stop a family to have eight children, All it does is spaces them and one will be able to say ‘I will not have a child for the next four years’.

“We object that and it’s not going to happen. As parliamentarians, we will fight it.”

Labode said side effects were there, but there were different contraceptives which do not have side effects which people could use.

“Yes, there are side effects and there are a lot of different ways of family planning. All those side effects, we had them during my time. We used to bleed, but we continued on family planning because it would come a time when it would stop,” she said.

“It’s not deadly. Family planning is one of the best strategies Zimbabwe has used to control its population and at one time, we were the best in the world.

“We need to maintain that because once you maintain that, you will be able to look after that little baby. You cannot have them run around the six of them in this economy. We need our population like this, what was going to happen if we were going to be 30 million? We are fine as 13 million for now.”

Tinashe Mundawarara, programme manager for the HIV, Human Rights and Law Project of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights says Mudede’s comments were “unfortunate” and could result in serious consequences for the country.

“Comments by the Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede are very unfortunate in that they are at cross purposes with our national public health goals that seek to promote choice in family planning and the use of contraceptives in stemming the advance of HIV and other STIs in our communities,” Mundawarara says.

“Access to reproductive health services should not be driven by ideologies of senior government officials, but by sound policy that respect women’s reproductive autonomy.

“It is important for the Ministry of Health to step in and counter this disinformation before it leads to grave consequences.”

According to latest statistics from the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council, the country’s contraceptive prevalence rate remains one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa although economic challenges in the last decade have led to a downward trend in some health indicators, including family planning use.

Health experts contend that in Zimbabwe, as elsewhere, increased access to family planning, healthier birth spacing practices, and reduced unwanted fertility had both short and medium-term benefits for women, families and society.

With family planning, women are better able to meet their reproductive health goals and families are better able to feed, educate and care for children.

At national level, fewer births will result in savings in maternal and child health care.

Slower, more sustainable population growth will reduce the burden on natural resources, environment and social services.

It is estimated that if government intensifies its family planning campaign, it will avert an estimated 780 000 unintended pregnancies; 110 500 unsafe abortions and 4 200 maternal deaths and 8 000 early neonatal deaths by 2020.