Action Health Incorporated (AHI) with funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) organized high level consultation meetings to launch the rollout of Sayana Press Injectable Contraceptive in Akwa-Ibom, Abia and Cross River States from November 1st – 3rd, 2016 respectively. The launch marks a major addition to the contraceptive options available to women who want to effectively prevent unintended pregnancies, thus contributing to efforts to reduce the high level of maternal deaths and unsafe abortions currently being recorded in the three states.
Sayana Press is an innovation that bridges the access gaps women have to contraceptives. It is a three-month, progestin-only injectable contraceptive and specifically contains the same active ingredient as Depo-Provera, also manufactured by Pfizer Inc. Injectable contraceptives are among the world’s most widely used methods for preventing pregnancy, offering women safe and effective protection.
However, unlike other available injectable contraceptives, Sayana Press comes in an all-in-one package; the product, syringe dispenser and needle are combined in a prefilled injection system, for a fast and simple administration. It has a shorter needle and is administered subcutaneously, thus eliminating many of the challenges associated with other injectables that are administered intramuscularly. More importantly, it expands the variety of family planning methods that offer convenience and privacy to women and gives broader access especially the underserved – those in hard-to-reach communities and young women limited by structural access. The providers who will administer this contraceptive method also go through a shorter training thus, reducing the bottlenecks that have become a staple in accessing DMPAs.
The high level consultations provided the opportunity to present Sayana Press to a broad range of stakeholders, address questions about the product, gather input regarding the best mechanisms for reaching the intended audiences and build support for its wide distribution in the respective states.
Speaking at the high level advocacy consultations held in Calabar, Mr Kenneth Ehouzou, Head of UNFPA Head of UNFPA Cross River Sub-Office and Programme Coordinator, affirmed that the Sayana Press Scale-up initiative is in line with the UNFPA’s mandate to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted and the Federal Ministry of Health’s commitment to increase the utilization of long-acting reversible contraceptive. He stated that UNFPA has secured funding through Children Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), based in the UK, to facilitate implementation scale up to more states in the country. Mr. Ehouzou therefore called on the state governments to support the initiative, highlighting the critical role they play in promoting universal access to sexual and reproductive health.
The Director, Public Health Department, Cross River State Ministry of Health, Dr Sonny Omini, described the Sayana Press Project as well-timed, saying that “it adds value to what we are doing so that at the end of the day, we can reduce the maternal mortality rate in Cross River State in particular and Nigeria in general”.
On his part, the Honourable Commissioner for Health, Abia State, Dr John Ahukannah welcomed the project and based on UNFPA’s reassurance of the consistent and sustainable availability of the product, he expressed the State’s willingness to work with partners to ensure the project’s success in Abia State.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Akwa Ibom State, Mr Attih Bassey, appreciated UNFPA and the implementing partner, AHI, for their support and timely intervention through the project to improve maternal health in the State. He further added that family planning has worked for his family and that in the face of an economic recession, it is appropriate to enable people have only the number of children they can care for.
AHI’s Executive Director, Mrs. Adenike Esiet lauded the introduction of Sayana Press as a unique opportunity to address the huge ‘unmet need’ for family planning in the three states. She also clarified that community-based distribution of Sayana Press will commence in each state with six local government areas that have been identified by the State Ministries of Health, while scale- up to other LGAs would follow from 2017.
Also participating in the stakeholder consultations and Sayana Press Project Launch which were hosted by the Commissioners of Health in the three states, were Permanent Secretaries of the States’ Ministry of Health, Directors at the States’ Ministry of Health, Health Secretaries and Coordinators from the various local government areas, Family Planning Coordinators of the respective States, Directors of the Primary Health Care Development Agency of the States, state-based Non-Governmental Organizations and representatives of Students’ Union Governments of tertiary institutions among others.
Following the project’s launch activities, training and other capacity building activities commenced for over 1, 000 healthcare providers across the three state, to prepare for wider distribution of the product to women of childbearing age who want to space births or avoid unintended pregnancies.