These are exciting times for the global family planning movement.
At the outset of the new era—with new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in place, with Family Planning 2020 at its mid-point, with more national and local governments committed to providing access to voluntary family planning services accompanied by country implementation plans—the global revitalization of family planning is well underway.
The latest data from Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) and the Demographic Health Survey (DHS) have documented significant increases in use of modern methods of contraception in such countries as Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Senegal, and Indonesia, and even in unanticipated places, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Niger and key states in Nigeria. Moreover, PMA2020 data has also revealed expanded access and use of long acting methods in almost all settings, even with an expanded method mix.
There is “impatient optimism” in the air tempered by the recognition that while much has been accomplished, more still needs to be done.
Over the past two years, the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health and our partners have been at the forefront of the family planning movement. We have increased our scope and reach to include pioneering research and advocacy on the demographic dividend and new partnerships with high-net-worth individuals and corporations, identified an exciting cadre of young leaders, and have leveraged resources with bilateral and multilateral donors to expand the Advance Family Planning (AFP) and the PMA2020 initiatives.
The AFP team continues to grow and expand into new regions, geographies and advocacy issues. AFP partners lead in targeted advocacy at decentralized levels where, increasingly, policy and funding decisions are made. AFP and partners have achieved 52 advocacy quick wins over the last year and over 200 since the initiative began. Many have resulted in new, renewed or increased family planning funding. Through the AFP Opportunity Fund and a multi country workshop grants, AFP has spread its impact both within and beyond its focus countries, providing technical support and a total of 37 awards in 16 countries. The AFP Advocacy Portfolio, launched two years ago, was recently updated with new components, and has been used in 49 strategy facilitations. Using this approach and other resources, AFP is now engaging a broad group of international and national organizations to maximize the ability to advocate collectively and effectively for family planning.
PMA2020 completed its third year of implementation and has now trained 1,600 resident enumerators who together have conducted over 250,000 interviews in 10 countries—an amazing feat. Twenty-three raw data sets are available online and are open to the public for research and further analysis and there have been 486 downloads. This is in addition to 5,108 downloads of the PMA2020 family planning key indicator briefs, 1,748 Snapshot of Indicators online tables, and 1,811 downloads of other documents. There have been 54 publications and conference presentations that have used PMA data. PMA monitors progress towards the FP2020 goal of enabling 120 million more women and girls to access voluntary contraception by 2020. From Indonesia to Kenya, Nigeria to Niger, Burkina Faso to DRC, and Uganda to Ghana, PMA data is used for programmatic and policy-making decisions. In a number of countries, the PMA2020 survey has expanded to include new topic area modules on maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH); primary health care; hygiene/sanitation and water; and schistosomiasis. Modules on adolescent reproductive health and nutrition are on the horizon.
In July 2016, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partnered with the Gates Institute to launch a bold new project, The Challenge Initiative (TCI), scaling up urban reproductive health in poor communities at the global level. TCI is centered on an innovative, demand-driven approach that encourages cities to assume an active role in project design and implementation, while local and global partners take supporting and facilitating roles. Instead of cities being selected by donors and partners, they will self-select and apply to participate in the initiative. Interested cities will demonstrate their commitment by pledging to bring their own resources (funds or in-kind support) to the table. Participating cities will work with TCI’s in-country partners, called accelerator hubs, to develop proposals to implement family planning interventions that are cost-effective and customized to each applicant city’s needs and circumstances. Promising proposals will be awarded matching funds from the TCI Challenge Fund to invest in the city’s chosen intervention.
The Gates Institute’s research agenda continues to accelerate country action by conducting landmark research on the demographic dividend (DD), focusing on human capital, gender equity and DD at the household level. The Gates Institute supported the publishing and editing of a new two-volume book, Économie Générationnelle et Dividende Démographique, written by Dr. Latif Dramani from the Université de Thiès that focuses on a demographic dividend in Senegal. The two volumes are seminal in that they are the first of their kind to be written by an African researcher, and the findings have broad implications for all of Africa.
We have expanded our partnerships to go beyond academic institutions in developing countries to include private industry and a youth-led organization. The 120 Under 40 initiative, in partnership with Bayer, identifies and honors those who comprise a new generation of leaders in reproductive health and family planning. The campaign has reached incredible numbers of people via social media posts by nominators and nominees. The Gates Institute has also become an angel investor to the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP), a youth-created and youth-led organization with over 55 country coordinators, that was born at the 2013 International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP).
IYAFP is just one example of how the family planning movement comes together at the ICFP, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the incredible support and solidarity shown by the family planning community for the 4th International Conference on Family Planning, which took place in Indonesia in January 2016 after having been postponed in November 2015 due to volcanic ash and air travel disruption.
During the 2016 ICFP, we introduced a new award, the Global Humanitarian Award for Women’s and Children’s Health, which recognizes individuals who have shown exemplary leadership and vision through contributions of private wealth to support reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, especially family planning. The 2016 awardees were Dato’ Sri Prof. DR Tahir, Indonesia; Sir Christopher Hohn, KCMG, United Kingdom; Fayeeza Naqvi and Arif Naqvi, Pakistan. These leaders continue to commit their private wealth for public good.
With all of our partners, I look forward to another year of exciting growth and positive disruption as we accelerate efforts towards our ultimate goal of universal access to reproductive health.
Jose “Oying” Rimon