Overcoming barriers to family planning in Vanuatu: Julie's experience at IPPF-SPRINT

Julie, former midwife, now nurse and Project manager for IPPF-SPRINT in Vanuatu

Julie was a midwife with the Ministry of Health for 20 years before she joined the Vanuatu Family Health Association (VFHA) as nurse and project manager for IPPF's SPRINT Initiative response in Vanuatu.

When Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, the SPRINT Initiative and VHFA started providing life-saving services to the Island, Tanna, which was the population worst affected by the typhoon. Many communities there live remotely, in grass huts, with no immediate access to medical care. 

Julie was there with the VFHA team. “When I first came here we used the kitchen to operate from. On my second trip, we created a clinic in our youth centre, and used the nearby health post for clinical procedures. Soon we saw more patients pouring in, which created a huge demand for space."

Health conditions are very low. Even before the cyclone hit the island, it was reported that the average mother loses two pregnancies each, in her lifetime. Every person in the village knows at least one mother who has died during child birth. Access and knowledge to family planning is overlooked as traditional practices are used first.

As Julie explains, advocating about family planning is a challenge in the area, also for language barriers. “Talking about birth-spacing and talking in the regional dialect of Tanna is a problem. Most of us in Vanuatu speak Bislama, but people here in Tanna aren’t well versed with it. However, we try our level best with all possible methods including sign language and demos to impart knowledge about family planning.”

Family planning services are just a part of the IPPF-SPRINT Cyclone Pam response, that also included general health check-up, counselling and awareness about Sexual and Gender Based Violence, maternal care and awareness and prevention of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).