The National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) said it actively promotes family planning to the impoverished, but admitted that public awareness remains low.
The agency under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry said family planning campaigns are carried out weekly at all LPPKN outreach programmes and family development seminars and talks that target poor and lower-middle income families.
“Family planning awareness is still low among the community although health campaigns, talks and family planning counselling during pre-pregnancy, postnatal programmes are being conducted,” an LPPKN spokesman told Malay Mail Online.
“Nevertheless, following health talks, participants are provided with knowledge of family planning and correcting the myths of family planning, such as [a] couple who uses contraceptives will be infertile. Hence, there will be participants who are interested with contraception following family planning talks,” the official added.
According to LPPKN, the reason why some women are reluctant to use birth control are because of the side effects and myths about contraception, inability to use contraceptives for medical reasons, and their husband’s disapproval.
Malay Mail Online recently published a special report on public housing, focusing on the difficult lives of residents at the Kota Damansara People’s Housing Programme (PPR) flat in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Two residents interviewed had many children despite their impoverished conditions, with one having six children and the other, seven. The latter had told Malay Mail Online that he saw his children as rezeki (a blessing), but he would now start to do “a little planning” with the eighth child on the way.
LPPKN said its family development talks and seminars are held in various locations like LPPKN premises, community halls, and in private agencies depending on availability.
“Local communities who are interested to have family development talks done in their area can easily arrange with LPPKN State Office for the commencement,” it said.
According to LPPKN, it has 59 Nur Sejahtera clinics throughout the country that provide family planning services and campaigns, including 12 in the Klang Valley. Other agencies that contribute similar services are health clinics from the Ministry of Health (MOH), NGOs like the Federation of Reproductive Health Association, and private hospitals and pharmacies.
Dr Safurah Jaafar, director of the Health Ministry’s family health development division, said the ministry’s health clinics and hospitals offer family planning services, including providing condoms, birth control pills, contraceptive injections, intrauterine devices and tubal ligation.
“It is given free and any married women who wishes to have such services can just walk-in and request for it,” she told Malay Mail Online.
She added that the Health Ministry spends about RM14 million a year on all types of contraceptives.
“Damansara community may seek from both government health facilities and private for such services. The MOH does not have any problem in providing these services in our health clinics. We will ensure adequate supply,” said Dr Safurah.
When asked about doing a family planning campaign at the Kota Damansara PPR, she said residents can visit government clinics like the Klinik Kesihatan or Klinik Desa.
Dr Safurah also pointed out that most of the mothers would have attended antenatal care at government health clinics and delivered their baby at public hospitals.
“Family planning is a mandatory subject our nurses provides to each pregnant and post-delivery mothers,” she said.
Former LPPKN director-general Datuk Dr Raj Karim, who served between 2000 and 2007, said public family planning workers used to do door-to-door visits in the community and distribute condoms and birth control pills from the 1970s to the 1990s due to the high maternal mortality rate in the 70s.
She added that reproductive health care accessibility is no longer an issue now due to the availability of government clinics, but the problem is the lack of public awareness.
“You must have the self-motivation and go to the clinic. Often, they don't go because sometimes there's no support from the husband. So they must get support and it's better to bring the husband along, so the husband can also understand.
“They don't want their wives to be on contraceptives. But if you go along with the line of family spacing or birth spacing, then everyone accepts it,” Dr Raj told Malay Mail Online.