Salambo discovering Ethiopia
I have seen for a few months now an increasing number of advertisements for family planning and contraception in the streets of Addis. Huge billboards for condoms, Intra Uterine Devices (IUD) and the contraceptive pill can be seen on every street corner, suggesting that it is a very topical issue.
According to the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, the rate of contraception in Ethiopia has increased from 6.3 percent in 2000 to 27.3 in 2011, while the total fertility rate has declined to an average of 4.8 from 5.5 children born per mother. Many reasons explain the successful introduction of contraception in the country. The government, recognizing that population growth may be one of the obstacles to reduce poverty, put in place family planning policies to promote the use of contraception and hence reduce the average size of families. Such policies were supported by international donors who provided help in purchasing contraceptive products, improving access to contraception particularly outside the main urban centres, as well as training social workers on the issue. In addition, the government put in place a health extension programme to bring education and contraceptive products to remote rural areas.
Of all the ads, my personal favourite is the one for Members Only, a local brand of condoms (made in Thailand) with a picture reminiscent of an old Playboy ad (not the kind of ad which would work on a woman’s psyche!). The exclusiveness of the name and the suggestion of a classy product made me smile. So I bought a box to find out more. The condoms are sold in a pack of three and packaged in a black tin box that would fit in a pocket or a handbag. They are much more expensive that other local brands such as Sensation, at ten times the price. A box of Members cost 30 birr for three condoms ($1.5), compared with two or three birr ($0.15) for Sensation, so they are exclusive as the ad suggests.
Contraception can be bought over the counter at any pharmacy, including the morning after pill which is sold in a single package of two tablets, just the dose needed in such situation. Condoms can also be easily purchased in some supermarkets. All contraceptives are cheap and accessible which can explain the success of the government’s family planning campaign. On an anecdotal note, I was asked on a couple of occasions if I knew about family planning…that was after I had said that I have five children!