No.6 Post-Cairo Reproductive Health Policies and Programs: A Study of Five Francophone African Countries
Justine Tantchou, Ellen Wilson (August 2000)
Full Document (English)
The 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) increased worldwide focus on reproductive health. Many countries have been working to revise their reproductive health policies in accordance with the ICPD Programme of Action. In 1998, the Network for Reproductive Health Research in Africa (RESAR), with support from the POLICY Project, conducted case studies in five Francophone African countries-Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, and Mali-to examine field experiences in formulating and implementing reproductive health policies. Findings were based on in-depth interviews with key informants active in the reproductive health field in their respective countries.
Because the five countries are located in the same region, they exhibit many similarities, yet each differs slightly in the challenges it faces and the approaches it takes to confront them. In general, the five countries have made considerable progress in integrating the concept of reproductive health into policies and programs, although more needs to be done to disseminate new policies and implement effective programs. While some aspects of reproductive health generate opposition, particularly programs for youth and programs against female genital cutting, overall support for reproductive health has increased in recent years. Governments are allowing nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to participate in policy formulation, and most countries are devoting more internal resources to reproductive health. Though these changes are encouraging, continued resistance on the part of the public sector to full partnership with NGOs, as well as the varying capabilities of many NGOs, has hindered NGO participation. Moreover, countries are still highly dependent on support from international donors for their funding. Less progress has been made in program implementation than in policy formulation. Some concrete changes are apparent, but the task of converting the concept of reproductive health into a reality in the field is sure to be a long, slow process.
Poverty and underdevelopment in the region are major constraints to reproductive health programs; consequently, countries must focus their efforts on priority interventions and use their existing resources more efficiently. The case studies also highlight the need to continue efforts to create broad-based support for reproductive health programs, improve coordination among stakeholders, strengthen NGOs so that they can effectively participate in the policy process, and enhance the financial sustainability of programs.