Confronting Global Contraceptive Shortages

In Sub-Saharan Africa, limited human resources, weak transportation systems, and outdated inventory methods are preventing family planning methods from reaching those who want them. When women seeking reproductive health services are turned away, they are unable to protect themselves from unintended pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. They are also less likely to use family planning in the future.

Population Action International’s film, Empty Handed: Responding to the Demand for Contraceptives, tells the story of women’s lack of access to family planning supplies in Sub-Saharan Africa and its impact on their lives. Set in Uganda, the film documents the challenges at each level of the supply chain and identifies key areas for improvement.

The film has been used to provoke discussion and mobilize support for reproductive health supplies in Uganda and throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Advocates have used the film to educate others about the reproductive health supply chain, transitioning the challenge from a technical, logistical issue to one about meeting basic health needs and valuing human rights.

Film screenings have been organized for senior government officials, parliamentarians, journalists, and other leaders. Media have now written about the issue in Uganda, Zambia, and globally. Parliamentarians in Uganda viewed the film and developed ways to respond to the shortages. In Zambia, the minister of health has become increasingly sympathetic and vocal about reproductive health supplies since viewing the film.

These efforts demonstrate how filmmaking can humanize a technical issue like the contraceptive supply problem and, coupled with targeted advocacy, encourage local communities to play a role in improving access to lifesaving reproductive health services.