Family Planning Commodity Shortages in Bangladesh: Implications for All

Family planning plays a pivotal role in shaping both individual well-being and community health. Yet, recent data from Bangladesh reveal a concerning pattern of diminishing supplies of family planning commodities, prompting concerns about its potential impact on the population’s health and future.

According to the Bangladesh Sample Vital Statistics conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), contraceptive use has seen a gradual decline over the past three years, dropping from 65.6% in 2021 to 62.1% in 2023. Moreover, vital commodities such as condoms are rapidly depleting, with the stock of birth control pills projected to last for only another five months. This shortage of family planning commodities may stem from inadequate forecasting practices, with far-reaching implications, particularly for young people.

Access to contraceptives is essential for empowering young individuals to make informed decisions about their reproductive health and future. However, the scarcity of supplies poses heightened risks of unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and restricted control over reproductive choices among young people. Addressing this shortage is paramount to safeguarding the health and well-being of individuals, especially the youth and adolescents, and ensuring access to comprehensive reproductive health care services for all.

The challenges faced by Bangladesh in family planning commodity supply are not isolated, as similar issues persist across various regions worldwide. The global community has acknowledged the significance of family planning through initiatives such as FP2030, which strives to account for access to quality family planning services and commodities for millions of women and girls globally. However, a commitment maker, Bangladesh’s current situation underscores the pressing need for intensified efforts to fulfill FP2030 commitments and guarantee universal access to family planning services.

To address these challenges effectively, enhanced collaboration and exchange with organizations like UNFPA, which oversees supplies, and the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition’s practices, including the Global FP Visibility and Analytics Network (VAN), are crucial. By leveraging the expertise and resources of these international partners, the Directorate General of Family Planning, which is also a RHSC coalition member, can improve its family planning commodity management practices, optimize supply chains, and enhance access to essential reproductive health supplies. This collaborative approach will not only benefit Bangladesh but also contribute to advancing global efforts to promote reproductive health and rights for all.

The shortage of family planning commodities in Bangladesh should concern everyone due to its potential ramifications on public health, gender equality, and socio-economic development. Access to family planning services is a fundamental human right, and its absence can lead to adverse outcomes such as increased maternal and child mortality rates, higher healthcare costs, and reduced opportunities for women’s empowerment and economic advancement. Furthermore, unchecked population growth can strain essential resources, exacerbate environmental degradation, and hinder sustainable development efforts.

As we reflect on the challenges posed by the shortage of family planning commodities in Bangladesh and its implications for the population’s health and well-being, it’s crucial to recognize the broader context. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), a milestone in advancing global reproductive health and rights. Ensuring access to universal family planning and reproductive health services is a fundamental component of the ICPD’s agenda. However, the current situation underscores the urgency of redoubling efforts to achieve these objectives, particularly in the face of dwindling commodity supplies.

Addressing the stock exhaustion of family planning commodities in Bangladesh requires concerted efforts from government agencies, healthcare providers, civil society organizations, and the international community. Immediate action is needed to ensure the uninterrupted supply of contraceptives and other essential commodities, strengthen forecasting, and accountability mechanisms, and prioritize investments in family planning programs. By prioritizing family planning, Bangladesh can safeguard the health and well-being of its population and contribute to achieving the goals outlined in FP2030. It is imperative that stakeholders come together to address this pressing issue and ensure that every individual has the right to access comprehensive family planning services, regardless of their socio-economic status or geographic location.

S M Shaikat is a youth development expert, international consultant, speaker, advocate, and human rights activist. He is the Executive Director at SERAC-Bangladesh, a youth-focused organization advocating and implementing programs on access to health rights, democratic participation of youth, friendly services, and gender-based violence prevention in Bangladesh. He was elected to the UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board in 2015 and has been a speaker at several events during the 69th, 70th, and 72th UN General Assemblies in 2014, 2015 and 2017, and at 62nd Commission on the Status of Women in 2018, opening plenary speaker of the 9th World Urban Forum in Malaysia. Shaikat is the founder of the Bangladesh Urban Youth Councils Network, which initiated youth councils in city corporations across Bangladesh to increase access to civic participation of young people. He was nominated by the U.S. Department of State to the International Visitors Leadership Program in 2013 and Asia Young Leader for Democracy in 2015.
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