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Tanzania's President Declares That There Is No Reason For Birth Control, Despite Ongoing Poverty Crisis

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Aliyah Kovner

Science Writer

clockSep 13 2018, 14:38 UTC

A woman and her children in Zanzibar, Tanzania. The average household has five children yet adults live on $2 or less per day. Anca Dumitrache/Shutterstock

Tanzania’s President, John Magufuli, stated at a public rally this past Sunday that families who use contraception due to concerns over limited resources for child raising are “lazy”. He then pronounced that women in the nation should stop taking birth control because large families are necessary for a productive future workforce.

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"I have traveled to Europe and I have seen the effects of birth control. In some countries they are now struggling with declining population. They have no labor force," said Magufuli, according to Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen.

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The comments were made at a speaking event in Meatu, a district in northern Tanzania. Also present at the engagement were the country's health minister, Ummy Mwalimu, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative for the nation, Jacqueline Mahon.

"Those going for family planning are lazy... they are afraid they will not be able to feed their children. They do not want to work hard to feed a large family and that is why they opt for birth controls and end up with one or two children only," said Magufuli, who, it should be noted, has only two children himself.

“You people of Meatu keep livestock. You are good farmers. You can then feed your children. Why would you opt for birth control? These are my views, but I do not see any need for birth control in Tanzania,” Magufuli said. 

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According to CNN, Magufuli further argued that ongoing government investment in maternal health programs and opening new hospitals should encourage women to have more children. His remarks are fundamentally at odds with the country’s current policies, as was made clear by MP Cecil Mwambe during a meeting of Parliament the following day, and the tenets of the government-approved programs offered by the UNFPA.

A branch of the UNFPA, which focuses on improving the quality of life for all citizens by increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services and education, was established in Tanzania in 1976. The nation adopted legislation that supported family planning, including providing access to contraceptive methods – rather than just encouraging abstinence – the same year.

Speaking just two months ago at the UNFPA’s 2018 World Population Day celebration in Zanzibar, representative Mahon said: “For each dollar spent on family planning the government can save up to $US6, making voluntary family planning one of the most cost-effective investments available. When women and young people are able to choose if, when and how often to have children, more girls can stay in school and more women can decide to enter or remain in the workforce; ultimately entire families, communities and countries thrive.”

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Per a recent USAID report, each Tanzanian woman had an average of 5.2 children in 2015, a reduction from the 1996 average of 5.8. The World Bank’s 2015 assessment of Tanzania found that although poverty has declined since 2007, the majority of people (70 percent) still live on less than $2 per day. The assessment concluded that lowering the population growth and helping women have fewer than five children would significantly boost further economic growth.

Unfortunately, President Magufuli has long ignored the well-established concept that access to birth control leads to improved social and economic development. In 2016 – his second year in office – Magufuli stated that women no longer needed birth control because a new free public education program would ensure all their children could go to school.


  • contraception,

  • united nations,

  • maternal mortality,

  • reproductive rights,

  • population growth