The parliamentarians noted the government is well aware of the problems and has a good strategy and action plan available. However, turning theory into practice has proved very challenging. Culturally, a big family remains the norm, and religious leaders have a big say in public opinion. This means local policy makers do not always dare put their necks on the line. It comes as no surprise therefore that a lot of sexual and reproductive health prevention is undertaken by international NGOs.
However, where the political will exists, practical problems arise. For example, Tanzania suffers from a serious lack of skilled health staff to answer the needs of its health sector. School attendance levels are low. For many, education remains limited to primary school, but even this does not guarantee that people leave school as literates. This is felt on the job market, with few qualified doctors and nurses and little well qualified teaching staff.
Despite the obstacles, MP Roel Deseyn is optimistic: “The Tanzanian government is well aware of the need for family planning. If everything remains as it is, the country runs the risk of doubling its population in 20 years from now. The country cannot handle this economically. It is therefore determined to turn family planning into a priority. I’m also confident about the political staff in parliament, with opposition members adopting a watchdog role when it comes to the government’s policy. However, a successful policy requires maximum investments in primary, secondary and higher education and particularly in the training and support of health staff. Belgium could contribute to this by paying specific attention to the health and educational sector in its collaboration with Tanzania.”
The parliamentary delegation was organised by the European Parliamentary Forum (EPF).