Pathfinder, Gates Foundation to Support Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancies in Niger
Niamey, Niger – A focus on family planning services and the availability of long-acting reversible contraceptive methods are part of a new program to raise the contraceptive prevalence rate and promote healthy spacing of pregnancies in the West African nation of Niger, Pathfinder International announced.
Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the four-year Promoting Access to Contraception for All (IMPACT) project will focus on three key underserved groups—young women, women receiving post-abortion care and postpartum services, and other women of childbearing age with an unmet need for contraception—ensuring their access to a variety of contraceptive methods, including long-acting reversible methods.
The IMPACT program launched on July 15 with a ceremony at Niamey’s Hotel Gaweye.
Pathfinder representatives Stephen Redding, Vice President for Country and Regional Operations, Dr. Sani Aliou, the IMPACT program director and Pathfinder’s country representative in Niger, and Jeannie Brown, Program Director for Niger, joined officials from the local government, civil society, and media at the ceremony.
The Gates Foundation commended Niger for its commitment to increasing its modern contraceptive prevalence rate in a written statement read by Pathfinder’s Aliou. They expressed their commitment to providing Nigerien women reliable access to family planning information, products and services.
The ceremony was led by Minister of Public Health His Excellence Mr. Mano Aghaly. Also in attendance was Niger’s Ministry of Health Secretary General Dr. Idrissa Maiga Mahamadou.
Reiterating the government’s commitment to addressing demographic challenges, Aghaly praised the Gates Foundation for their contribution that will make a strong difference in improving the health status of Niger’s children and women.
Addressing an Urgent Need
In Niger – a landlocked country in West Africa ranking at the very bottom of the United Nations Development Program’s 2013 Human Development Index– only 12 percent of women use a modern method of contraception (NDHS 2012).
Its total fertility rate of 7.6 births, reaching 8.1 in rural areas—the highest reported in the world—is compounded by a large proportion of births that are narrowly spaced, as well as high rates of early marriage and childbearing.
In February 2011, Niger joined seven other Francophone West African countries at the Ouagadougou Conference on Population, Development, and Family Planning, affirming its commitment to addressing people’s very low access to critical services for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy.
Today, through its National Family Planning Strategic Plan 2012-2020, the government of Niger proves its commitment to increasing access to services for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy to improve the health of mothers and babies.
Working at the community level
Pathfinder's work to improve sexual and reproductive health is fundamentally about improving how systems work, both a community system and the formal health system.
The IMPACT project activities begin at the community level, providing support to two cadres of community health workers—relais communautaires (relais) and Agents de Santé Communautaire (ASC). The project will offer services for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, in line with guidelines from the Ministry of Health.
The project will also support routine, systematic outreaches for maternal and child care, including the provision of a range of contraceptive methods.
To address the formal health systems, the IMPACT project will expand people’s access to method mix and quality services at the facility level—at Centre de Santé Intégré and the district hospitals.
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Supported by Pathfinder International, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Packard Foundation, the Health of the People and Environment in the Lake Victoria Basin initiative, or HoPE-LVB, has employed the PHE model to address food insecurity, weak health infrastructure, environmental degradation, high maternal and infant mortality, and inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene.