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World Contraception Day: Celebrating Free Contraception in Côte d’Ivoire

 

From 2015 to 2020, in my native country of Côte d’Ivoire, modern contraception prevented 2.4 million unintended pregnancies, more than 772,000 unsafe abortions, and more than 10,000 maternal deaths.1 We know contraception saves lives, yet it still remains out of reach in our rural communities.

World Contraception Day, on September 26, serves as a critical reminder that we must ensure voluntary family planning services, including information, counseling, and methods, reach all who want them. Contraception gives people the opportunity to decide whether and when to have children. It reduces the number of women at risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth by allowing them to space and delay their births.

In Côte D’Ivoire this year, World Contraception Day also serves as a time for celebration. On September 26, our government will officially launch its new reproductive health policy—mandating  free contraceptive services in certain rural areas: three health districts (Agboville, Sikensi, and Tiassalé) in the Agneby-Tiassa region, and two health districts (Toumodi and Aboisso) in the regions of Bélier and Sud-Comoé, respectively.

According to Côte d’Ivoire’s National Institute of Statistics, about 110,000 women of childbearing age will benefit from this new policy. The renewed focus on contraception will have long-lasting positive changes, removing financial barriers to contraception, and in turn, preventing unplanned pregnancies, expanding women’s contraceptive choices, and reducing maternal and newborn deaths.

Pathfinder and its partners are removing barriers that prevent women from seeking family planning services by strengthening the capacity of health providers to deliver quality care. Photo: Courtney Boudreau.

An Advocacy Partnership that Gave Contraception the Attention it Deserves

The new reproductive health policy results from an advocacy partnership between Pathfinder, the Civil Society for Family Planning (CS4FP), and other civil society groups, which was supported by Population Action International (PAI). Pathfinder mobilized and persuaded local communities, policymakers, and national and local leaders that contraception is essential and deserves high-level attention. Our advocacy partnership then engaged civil society organizations (CSOs), local and international non-governmental organizations, and the Association of Women Lawyers to scale up free contraceptive services.

To ensure meaningful, locally led advocacy efforts, we:

Pathfinder also partnered with the United Nations Population Fund, the World Health Organization, and the World Bank to purchase contraceptives in Côte d’Ivoire and establish a national committee for free contraception to monitor the process.

Our advocacy work is part of the broader efforts we have undertaken to improve reproductive health in Côte D’Ivoire. Since 2016, we have been working with the support of the Hewlett Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and PAI to:

Mr. Andoh Hyacinthe, Deputy Director-Coordinator of the National Maternal-Child Health Program (far right), shares the Government of Côte d’Ivoire’s maternal health vision. Photo: Pathfinder International.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Bold Vision

Earlier this year, Mr. Andoh Hyacinthe, Deputy Director-Coordinator of the National Maternal-Child Health Program, shared the government’s new vision for maternal health with health providers, donors, and development partners. He said the Government of Côte d’Ivoire is committed to a bold vision: “Where no woman dies by giving life and where each person is born healthy and experiences healthy sexuality and reproduction.”

This is a vision we will continue to support through our work in Côte D’Ivoire.

While we have made great strides to ensure contraception is available to communities in Agneby-Tiassa, we still have work to do. On this World Contraception Day, Pathfinder and our partners commit to continued advocacy for scale-up of the new policy throughout Agneby-Tiassa and the entire country—to ensure free contraception reaches all Ivorians.

Learn more about our work in Côte d’Ivoire here (also available in French).


Written By: Ernest K. Yao, Pathfinder Country Director, Côte d’Ivoire
Cover Photo: In Côte d’Ivoire, Pathfinder and its partners support the Ministry of Health to increase access to quality reproductive health services. Photo: Courtney Boudreau

References:
Track20 Family Planning Indicators
Guttmacher Institute, 2020
3 United Nations Population Fund, 2021
4 World Health Organization, 2021
5 World Bank, 2000-2017