Rwanda has presented plan to revisit agreements with churches in family planning support following senate report which pointed a finger to the churches as sabotaging existing policies.
A senate report has indicated that birth control is currently being derailed by religious beliefs, poor coordination and planning, alongside low budgets-mainly financed by donors by over 50%.
“Government is revisiting agreements with religious organization owning health facilities to improve working relationship. We are aware of the problem, but since we are in dialogue, I cannot tell the outcomes but discussions aimed to resolve this issue are on course,” said Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente.
Health centers owned by some religious institutions are said to among others, deny contraception services and tools to neighboring communities that they are meant to serve.
In result, they use natural methods whose margin of error is high.
Ngirente was on November 22 appearing before Senate after he was summoned to explain, in practical terms, what government plans to do to meet its family planning targets.
During a session chaired by Senate president Bernard Makuza, the house was not particularly impressed with government stance on religious attitude towards birth control methods and some lawmakers seconded the idea of pushing for further action and measures.
Senator Narcisse Musabeyezu, for example wondered why it belongs to a girl child to follow basic education on contraceptives.
“Religious owned schools carry campaigns against fornication but tell Christians to produce children they won’t be able to raise. This is irresponsible, ” Musabeyezu said.
Just like Musabeyezu, Senator Jean Damascène Ntawukuliryayo said that government has taken soft measures in its family planning policy which may compromise its development targets.
“The measures we have are soft compared to the targets and that’s dangerous,”Ntawukuriryayo said.
The Premier said that in the meantime, government will bypass the issue of lack of access to family planning services in religious based health facilities by building more health centers and health posts in the next seven years.
“We are going to build health posts at cell level to enable mothers get services near them and whenever need be,” Ngirente said.
Government plans to construct 1700 more health posts by 2024, compared to 620 health posts currently.
This year alone, 220 health posts will be built, according to Ngirente.
The current population in Rwansa is estimated at over 12 million citizens, with an annual birth rate of over 220,000.
Since 2006 the government launched a profound family planning campaign to reduce fertility levels from 8 children per woman.
The ratio declined to 4.8 children per woman and 3.2 children per woman in 2010 and 2018 respectively, against the target of 2.3 in 2050.