Melinda Gates Hails Tanzania over Contraceptive Plan

The wife of billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Melinda, has recommended Tanzania’s move to put a local budget line for reproductive health in this year’s financial year.

She said in an interview with the ‘Daily News’ that it was commendable for countries to follow up on their commitments made since the London Family Planning Summit that took place mid-last year.

“It is important for all countries to honour their commitments, a move that also inspires developed countries that made pledges to honour them too,” Mrs Gates, who is co-founder and co-chairwoman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said.

The Foundation is at the forefront of raising $4 billion to extend “affordable, life-saving contraceptive services to an additional 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020. Her comments come as this year, for the first time, the government made a budgetary allocation from domestic resources for family planning activities in the 2013/2014 national budget.

The decision is based on the government’s goal to make Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) grow at more than three per cent annually so that the country attains a 60 per cent CPR by 2015, according to the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hussein Mwinyi.

Mrs Gates told the ‘Daily News’ that maternal mortality deaths could further go down if reproductive health makes further inroads across parts of the country. The current contraception prevalence rate is 27 per cent and the government has pledged to lift it to 60 per cent by 2015.

At the London Summit, which she referred to, President Jakaya Kikwete said Tanzania was committed to increase contraceptive prevalence rate to 60 per cent by 2015, exuding the government’s determination to increase family planning users from 2.1 million (2010) to 4.2 million by 2015.

In the interview, Mrs Gates said countries that have the greatest needs for family planning are at the forefront of global progress to expand access to contraceptive information, services and supplies. “Over a year ago in London, the global community declared women’s health and well-being an urgent priority. Today, we are seeing words translate into action in countries like Tanzania,” she observed.

According to Mrs Gates, health benefits of family planning include preventing unintended pregnancies, reducing unsafe abortions and lowering pregnancy - and childbirth-related death and illness - for both mother and child.

She pointed out that increased use of modern contraception by women who do not want to get pregnant has driven nations’ progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of improving maternal health and reducing child mortality.

Mrs Gates added that expanding family planning access and choice is the first step for African nations to achieve the Demographic Dividend, which refers to the long-term economic growth that can result from lower fertility rates.

She, however, remarked that for this dividend to be realised, it must be coupled with investments in women’s and girls’ education, a productive workforce and good governance.

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