A CLOSER LOOK:
The capital of Myanmar is the planned city of Nay Pyi Taw, a vast new metropolis built from scratch in the middle of the country. Gleaming government buildings and color-coded apartment blocks (blue roofs for Ministry of Health employees, green for Ministry of Agriculture) are flanked by acres of scrubland and fields dotted with water buffalo. Modern business-class hotels line the road to the airport.
At one of those hotels, 160 conference delegates gathered this past summer to talk about contraception. The Myanmar Family Planning Best Practices Conference featured panels on everything from condom cue cards for teenagers to the finer points of IUD insertion and removal. Local OB/GYNs compared notes with technical advisors from global NGOs. Terms like “method mix” and “commodity security” peppered the discussions.
Times have changed in Myanmar. After decades of international isolation, the country is rejoining the world community and embarking on modern development goals. Nowhere is the new spirit more evident than in Myanmar’s bold commitment to family planning, delivered at the 2013 International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa. Myanmar vowed to halve unmet need for contraception by 2020 and to raise the contraceptive prevalence rate to 60%.
The government has already begun taking concrete steps. The budget for contraceptive commodities was increased from US$1.29 million in 2012/2013 to US$3.27 million in 2013/2014. A five-year strategic plan for reproductive health was launched earlier this year and a national implementation plan was drafted. A working group on family planning was created to coordinate national strategy.
The government has also begun efforts to strengthen supply chains and improve service delivery. UNFPA’s GPRHCS is helping to set up a Logistics Management Information System, and pilot projects have already been rolled out to 12 townships. Health care providers are being trained in a greater range of contraceptive methods: state obstetricians and gynecologists are being trained in IUDs, and doctors in private networks are learning about contraceptive implants. Auxiliary midwives are now authorized to dispense oral contraceptive pills and condoms under the supervision of midwives.
In the midst of all this activity, the Best Practices Conference was an important milestone. The three-day conference was designed to make sure that Myanmar benefits from the lessons that have been learned through family planning programs around the world. The Ministry of Health hosted the event, welcoming representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNFPA, the Gates Institute, Stanford University, the Government of Indonesia, and Pathfinder. Teams from 10 townships in Myanmar—medical officers, OB/GYNs, nurses, midwives and NGO partners—provided the local perspective.
On the first day, the international experts led discussions on the global experience with family planning, describing the evidence-based best practices that have emerged. On the second and third days, the township teams described the situation on the ground in Myanmar, identifying the bottlenecks and obstacles that need to be overcome. The conference ended with a set of detailed recommendations for the road ahead.
The announcement of our commitment to FP2020 was an occasion of great hope for Myanmar. Access to contraception is the fundamental right of every woman and community, and we aim to expand family planning services to reach all who need and want them. This journey will not be easy, but thanks to FP2020, we have many partners around the world to help us on our way.
Dr. Thein Thein Htay
Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health, Myanmar
Sources: Myanmar Ministry of Health, via FP2020 self-report; Pathfinder International.
6. The Myanmar Family Planning Best Practices Conference was organized with the assistance of Pathfinder International, which was also instrumental in securing Myanmar’s FP2020 commitment. Financial support for the conference was provided by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the 3MDG Fund, FP2020, UNFPA, and WHO. Technical partners included the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, BKKBN of Indonesia, the Futures Group, Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association, Myanmar Partners for Policy and Research, Marie Stopes International, and Population Services International. Merlin/Save the Children, Myanmar Medical Association, Myanmar Nurses and Midwives Association, and Myanmar Women’s Affairs Federation were also involved in conference planning.