BD should identify and plug gaps in family planning
US Expert Mervyn Christian tells the daily observer
With the population growing at a faster rate than any other countries in the world Bangladesh is facing a challenge to controll its population for its economic growth. The Daily Observer reporter Banani Mallick interviewed Mervyn Christian, a health expert and Programme Officer of Advance Family Planning at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the USA for his view on the issue of family planning that might help the country to contain its fastest growing population
DO: What do you think of Bangladesh's family planning programmes?
Mervyn Christian: Bangladesh family planning programme has always been strong. The government has and continues to take initiatives and steps to improve the quality and availability of family planning information, services, and supplies. For example, the government has allocated more funds to improve family planning services. In addition, to improve the quality of services, the government has recently updated the intra-uterine contraceptive device (IUD) training curriculum and is conducting refresher trainings for all health workers that can provide IUDs. It has also approved a pilot project on Subcutaneous DMPA (DMPA-SC), an easy-to-use injectable contraceptive to increase access to hard-to-reach areas. The government continues to be pro-active to increase access to and availability of quality family planning services.
DO: As Advanced Family Planning (AFP) works in many countries including Bangladesh, are you tracking the progress of national family planning?
Mervyn Christian: There are established platforms such as Demographic and Health Surveys, Family Planning 2020 and Track 20 that track the progress of family planning indicators. In certain countries, there are specific surveys that also collect some family planning information. All of these mechanisms can be used to review progress of the national family planning indicators.
DO: Do you have any future plans to extend supports to family planning advocacy especially capacity building of stakeholders including the government and civil society?
Mervyn Christian: Our project is until 2022 and we hope to continue family planning advocacy in collaboration with the government, civil society, non-government organizations, and other experts such as UNFPA to make Bangladesh's family planning programme more effective for the people.
DO: Do you have any plan to contextualize AFP smart approaches by transforming it into a tool for civil society and media.
Mervyn Christian: Our advocacy tool called the AFP SMART approach can be used for developing advocacy strategies on any issue and we encourage everyone to use it. More than 160 non-governmental organizations and at least 25 countries are already using the approach. The AFP SMART Portfolio and other resources for family planning advocacy are available free on our website (www.advancefamilyplanning.org). Our partner Marie Stopes Bangladesh can also provide these tools. They have translated some of our resources into Bangla.
DO: You are running the similar programme in different countries, can you please cite some example from your experiences which could be useful for us.
Mervyn Christian: While there are many examples that can be replicated, each country context is unique. The government and experts in Bangladesh are better suited to identify potential solutions to address the gaps here. We work closely with them to identify solutions and develop strategies that can support the government in strengthening the family planning programme.
DO: Can you please identify some key components for advocacy in Bangladesh context?
Mervyn Christian: We focus on improving policies, reducing barriers to quality family planning services, and increasing funding and its utilization so that clients can get the much-needed services. There is also a great need from young people to get access to family planning services. We are collaborating with the Directorate General of Family Planning to increase access to young people. We support Bangladesh's strong commitment to the FP2020 initiative and are working with the government to help realize it.