White Ribbon Alliance calls Parliament to push for increased family planning budget

By Duncan Mlanjira

As Parliament is expected to meet from September 4 for budget session, White Ribbon Alliance has appealed for more funding towards the family planning sector in the country after noting that there was poor funding for in the initial 2020/21 national budget.

In an exclusive interview from Lilongwe Executive Director, Hester Mkwinda Nyasulu said White Ribbon Alliance — that was initiated in 2002 with a mission to activate a people-led movement for health and reproductive sensitisation drive — noted that the Ministry of Health & Population proposed a budget of K250 million but was reduced to K176 million, receiving a deficit of K74 million.

Nyasulu, White Ribbon Executive Director

“We have engaged the Parliamentary committee on health, women caucus and the budgetary committee and raised this issue up and we hope they will consider raising the family planning commodities budget,” Nyasulu said.

“We hope the committee going to take it up in Parliament to bring the budget to the original K250 million.”

He added that the K176 million is even K10 million less from the funding that was given in the 2019/20 budget.

Malawi Parliament

According to Nyasulu, government currently provides only 2% of the needed K9.4 billion funding for family planning while most of the funds are provided by donors.

He said there are a lot of things that need investment in family planning, such as prevention of teenage pregnancies — which is a huge challenge in Malawi.

He went on to say that the organization is working with other non-governmental organizations to make sure women, both in rural and urban areas, are accessing the family planning methods.

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White Ribbon Alliance gets its support from AMREF Health Africa and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation among other donors.

Nyasulu then said White Ribbon Alliance envisions a Malawi where it will ensure that all girls and women realise their right to quality health and well-being.

He said Government has rightly prioritised the rapid recovery of the economy after the COVID-19 crisis and that investing in FP/SRH will contribute to achieving SDGs in health and non-health areas — in particular poverty, food security, child stunting, education, water and sanitation services, and child labour.

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He said there is need to prioritise investments which empower women and accelerate fertility decline, which has the potential to raise per capita GDP in Malawi from US$397 in 2014 to US$4,203 in 2040 and US$9,351 in 2054 — as according Ministry of Finance, 2015.

Research shows that FP is one of the most cost-effective health interventions – relatively low cost with a high impact (Guttmacher, 2017).

“FP enables individuals and couples to fulfil their potential and invest in their family’s future, while contributing to Malawi’s economic prosperity,” Nyasulu said.

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“It is estimated that honouring unmet needs for FP will save up to MK64 billion in healthcare costs between 2017 and 2023, as adapted from FP2020 CIP, 2015.

“These savings can be utilised to support Malawi’s post-COVID recovery and boost growth in other sectors,” he said. 

Estimates from the Impact Now model demonstrate that increasing modern contraceptive use to increase to 70% by 2023 will have some beneficial effaces between 2017 and 2023 such as:

* Averting over 8.2 million unwanted pregnancies and 1.1 million abortions

* Preventing 1.8 million unsafe abortions

* preventing 12,500 maternal deaths and 68,590 child deaths.

“With these statistics, we are urging Members of Parliament to support the increase of the budget,” Nyasulu said.

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