Banja La Mtsogolo clocks 30 years in Malawi: Offers free sexual and reproductive health services for 90 days

Banja La Mtsogolo (BLM), a Malawian Health Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), has turned 30 and as part of the 30th anniversary, BLM will provide all modern contraception counselling and services – including Post Abortion Care (PAC) – in all its 29 Centres at no cost for a period of 90 days from 7th February to 8th May 2017.

BLM to offer free sexual and reproductive health services for 90 days

The organization’s Board Chair Dr. Wesley Sangala and Country Director, Nicky Matthews, made the announcement at a press briefing in Lilongwe on Tuesday.

“The objective is to give back to the populations of urban and peri urban Malawi where BLM Centres are located by improving access to modern contraception and PAC through addressing the barrier of affordability for most women in Malawi,” said Matthews adding that contrary to conventional belief, many people in Malawi, especially women, have an unmet need for family planning to limit future births and the number of children they choose to have during their life time.

Matthews said that although the organization has made progress over the past decades in providing women modern contraception options there remains unmet need for modern contraception due to factors like availability, affordability and general misconceptions on contraceptive and modern contraception options.

She said evidence of cost being a barrier has been gathered in the last year through monthly free family planning days in BLM Centres where client figures could rise by 1,000% in one single free day.

“Today we are giving out 90 free days of all modern family planning to communities around BLM Centres after 30 years of operations in Malawi in 2017 since our modest start-up in Dedza in 1987 when we initially part targeted populations fleeing the armed conflict that was prevalent in Mozambique then,” she said.

This is an opportunity for the organization to celebrate its remarkable history and impact, communicate its shared vision for the future, and reinforce its unwavering commitment to the mission of children by choice, not chance to the people of Malawi.

Banja La Mtsogolo (BLM) is a member of the Marie Stopes Global Partnership and its goal is to address maternal mortality and rapid population growth while combating HIV/AIDS and unsafe abortion by ensuring that women have access to options in family planning, safe abortion services, and the tools and knowledge necessary for preventing HIV infection.  Successful delivery on this strategy means more men and women leading healthier lives and ensuring that many more people have.

BLM brand messaging of children by choice, not chance is synonymous with family planning in Malawi. The organization provides up to 60 percent of modern contraception nationwide.

According to Sangala, from 2008 to date, BLM has provided more than 1.9 million modern contraception services to Malawian women. This includes over 300,000 long acting and permanent methods.

As early as 2013, nearly half of the women in Malawi who were using a modern form of contraception received it from BLM. The organization has assisted 170,000 women by providing a long acting or permanent modern contraception method and has doubled the number of young women accessing contraception since 2011-reaching more than 165,000 women under the age of 25.

Matthews said presently the organisation provides up to 85 percent of its services in Malawi through over 600 mobile outreach sites where all services are free at the point of delivery to the client thanks to the continued support from UKAID, USAID and the European Commission in Malawi.

At BLM Centres and Bluestar private partner franchisees, BLM provide services for a fee, often subsidized significantly by support from its donor partners.

Sangala said that at 4.4 children per family, Malawi’s fertility rate is among the highest in the world. Long-range population growth estimates suggest that unchecked fertility rates could lead to a national population of 41 million by 2040. Population growth will therefore only increase pressure on the already strained resources in the Malawi.

“Contraception options and reproductive health services are therefore essential to reducing the rapid population growth and improving the economic outlook and the well-being of people in the country,” he said .

An estimated 289,000 women died in 2016 during and following pregnancy and childbirth and according to BLM, one of the simplest and most effective means of saving these women’s lives is contraception, but for more than 220 million women globally today, that is still not an option, because even though they want to protect themselves, they are unable to access modern contraception

Says Nicky Matthews, BLM Country Director “BLM is committed to continuing to provide sexual reproductive health services in Malawi.  We are incredibly grateful to the Ministry of Health and all of our funding partners that enable us to provide lifesaving services across the country.

“We feel immensely privileged to be celebrating our 30th birthday in Malawi and want to show our appreciation to the communities that allow us to serve them by offering free services throughout our centre network.”

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