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Story and Perspective

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

Ernest K. Yao, Pathfinder Country Director, Côte d’Ivoire

Courtney Boudreau

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:

  • Trained and engaged local CSOs committed to increasing contraceptive access and choice.
  • Worked with Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Health to scale up postpartum and post-abortion contraceptive services in the Agneby-Tiassa-Mé region.
  • Advocated for free contraceptive services to be integrated into the country’s existing 2011 policy that mandates free health care for pregnant women.
  • Supported the Regional Council of Agnéby-Tiassa-Mé to develop a Health Development Plan—a strategic tool to expand quality care in the region (currently, Pathfinder is working with the Ministry of Health to create similar guidelines for other health districts).
  • Strengthened the capacity of health providers to offer convenient and high-quality contraceptive services, shifted negative attitudes towards contraception, and enhanced youth-friendly services.
  • Promoted dialogue between local communities and health providers to create an enabling environment where contraception is supported.

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:

  • Increase access to postpartum and post-abortion contraceptive services;
  • Remove barriers to contraceptive access;
  • Engage communities to advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights;
  • Improve health service delivery; and
  • Enhance comprehensive post abortion care.
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.

  • Currently, 218 million women in low-and-middle-income countries want to delay or avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern method of contraception such as injectables, implants, oral contraceptive pills, or an intrauterine device.2
  • In Côte, d’Ivoire, 21 percent of women aged 15-49 have an unmet need for modern contraception.3
  • Every day, about 830 women around the world die from preventable pregnancy-or childbirth-related complications.4
  • Despite free health care for pregnant women, the maternal death rate in Côte d’Ivoire remains high (617 deaths per 100,000 live births).5

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

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

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