Promoting culturally sensitive birth spacing

15 July 2016

The Ministry of Health (MOH) in Puntland in collaboration with UNFPA has launched culturally sensitive outreach interventions at the community level where reproductive health service delivery and Behavior Change Communication (BCC) are being integrated.

As part of this initiative, the book "Family Planning in the Legacy of Islam" has been translated into Somali language, so as to use it as a basis for embarking on a robust culturally sensitive communication campaign.

“It is believed that the content of the book will help campaigners sensitise local communities, opinion and religious leaders about health benefits of birth spacing to mothers, children and families,” said Jihan Salad, UNFPA’s Reproductive and Maternal Health Programme Specialist for Puntland.

Salad said UNFPA, in close coordination and with the administration and management support of MOH and the Ministry of Justice, Religious Affairs and Rehabilitation (MOJRAR), will be reviewing the Somali translated book in consultation with prominent religious and community leaders as well as reproductive health professionals and Somali youth.

She said the review and consultation meetings will be followed by interactive workshops on developing culturally BCC and advocacy messages for informing and increasing awareness of communities on birth spacing benefits and services.

“The BCC and advocacy messages will also help in dispelling myths and misconceptions about the view of birth spacing in Islam,” said Salad. She said the concept of the book will be used in the framework of community-based birth spacing services and counselling, as part of the periodic community integrated reproductive health outreach campaign and the fistula campaign targeting hard to reach and underserved communities.

The BCC and advocacy messages will be integrated in the existing clinical guidelines and protocols in the continuously expanding UNFPA-supported service delivery points that also provide life saving maternal, reproductive health medicines and skilled birth attendance.

Somalia has one of the worst reproductive health indicators in the world.  The country has a low contraceptive prevalence at less than 15 per cent, with only 1.2 per cent of married women using modern methods and 26 percent of women having unmet needs of birth spacing. There is limited access to skilled attendance at birth at less than 30 percent, poor quality and limited access to basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care with a caesarean section rate of less than two percent and a high fertility rate of six to seven children per woman. These indicators are among the main causes of the high Maternal Mortality Ratio in Somalia, which stands at 732 per 100,000 live births.