A woman with her 11th child in Niger, the country with the highest total fertility rate in the world. © 2013 Alison Heller/Washington University in Saint Louis, Courtesy of Photoshare
This piece was originally published on the Health Policy Plus blog, Viewpoints.
Earlier this year I traveled to Niger to support the Ministry of Health in refining the country's Costed Implementation Plan (CIP) for family planning. While there, I worked with a dedicated group—ministry staff, implementing partners, representatives from the religious community, and youth advocates—to agree on priorities that could accelerate progress on Niger's ambitious goal to increase its modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR) from 13 percent (or 14.4% for married women) to 50 percent by 2020. We spent 3.5 days combing through the results of their mid-term review of Niger's CIP to set priorities and identify which population groups, in addition to women, we should focus on reaching: youth (what age range?), men (which men: community leaders? partners?), religious leaders? At the end of the workshop, we felt a sense of accomplishment in our priorities going forward, which included establishing how the government can extend services throughout the large Sahelian country using community health workers, mobile clinics, and strategies to improve data collection. Another important priority we agreed on was a focus on educating youth on the socioeconomic benefits of family planning.