PodMed: Reflections on ICFP 2013

Dr. Amy Tsui, Director of the Gates Institute, and Dean Michael Klag, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, sat down with Elizabeth Tracey, Director of Electronic Media for Johns Hopkins Medicine, to reflect on the 2013 International Conference on Family Planning. Take a listen below.

Weekly Podcast: PodMed

ICFP 2013: Opening Day

ICFP 2013 Closing Statement

The 3rd International Conference on Family Planning officially closed on Friday, November 15, 2013.  More than 3,300 delegates from 120 countries attended the conference, which ended with a Call to Action seeking to keep focus on family planning and sexual and reproductive health as part of the post-2015 development framework.  More post-conference developments will be posted in due course on this website.  Thank you to everyone who participated and helped to make this the largest and most successful conference on family planning ever.  We are well on the way to ensuring Full Access and Full Choice.

 

Reflections on a Remarkable Conference

In this article, Amy Tsui, PhD, reviews some of the most striking highlights from the International Conference on Family Planning 2013 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Tsui is director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In November 2009 I walked from the hotel compound with a young woman recruited to help support our first international conference on family planning held in Kampala, Uganda.  “How do I get involved in family planning?” she asked.  “I want to learn more about this field.  It is so positive.  Not like HIV.”  Uganda then had been weathering an HIV epidemic, which saw more than 120,000 new infections each year, more than half being women and children. They were the same groups who stood to benefit from family planning.  Indeed a third of married women in Uganda were assessed in 2011 as seeking to delay or stop childbearing but not contracepting—a staggering 1.11 million women.  Women reported that on average 1.5 of all their births were not wanted at the time.

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A Call to Action

The Addis Call to Action on the Post-2015 Development Framework voices the perspective of civil society organizations to ensure that family planning and sexual and reproductive health remain part of the post-2015 development framework. To endorse the statement, please send your name or organization’s name to [email protected]u. The statement was shared at the Closing Event of the ICFP by Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, Regional Director of Partners in Population and Development, Africa Region. The statement is to be presented to the UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki Moon.

Mae Azango’s Story

Liberian journalist Mae Azango collects stories. And has a story to tell.

We met Wednesday afternoon in one of the African Union caucus rooms during the International Conference on Family Planning. She wandered into the room between video interviews I was conducting there, and we started chatting.

Two minutes into our conversation about why she had come to the conference, I was amazed and asked if I could interview her.

Twenty-three years ago, she was 18 and pregnant: “An unwedded girl just out of high school.” Civil war ravaged Liberia at the time. Like many in the country, doctors, nurses and midwives had fled the turmoil. About to give birth, she turned to a traditional midwife.

The midwife helped her through labor and the birth of her child, but the placenta didn’t follow. “I was bleeding profusely. I was in pain. She gave me two tablespoons of kerosene to drink. I drank that. She said the placenta would come out,” Azango recalled.

It didn’t. After another 20 to 30 minutes, the midwife blamed Azango. She told her the complication had developed because she had another lover besides the father of her child. The midwife started to beat her legs, urging her to confess the name aloud. In extreme pain, Azango screamed some names she made up. The midwife consulted a man in the next room. He banged some old cups together and said the gods had forgiven her.

Finally the placenta came out. “The entire room was full of blood. I could not see anything. I passed out completely because I had lost enough blood. It was just by the mercy of God that I lived.”

Azango recuperated slowly. The war got worse. She fled to Cote d’Ivoire and survived as a refugee. Destitute. She returned to her country and became a journalist. “I write about ordinary people, everybody. They too have their stories. I listen to them. I’m the voice of the voiceless,” she told me, adding that she focuses on women, children and human rights issues.

Last year, she interviewed some traditional midwives outside of Monrovia for a story. They told her they still believe that complications in childbirth occur because the woman had an extramarital affair. “When people are not informed, they perish. With the power of the pen, I can inform my people better. That is why I’m here.”

At the conference, she said, “I hear from other speakers [about issues that] relate to my country and [help me to better] communicate to people in my country and tell them they are not feeling pain alone. I came to get a way forward.”

Greater access to family planning is desperately needed in Liberia, she said.  “Women are dying so much in my country. We are so high in maternal deaths,” she said.

She mused a moment on the thousands of family planning researchers, clinicians, academics and program experts in the building, and said, “I wish they could go to Liberia.”

—Brian W. Simpson