At a rally in Tanzania’s Simiyu region, President John Magufuli told rally goers that he saw no “need for birth control in Tanzania”. According to local media, President Magufuli blamed laziness for the use of contraception, saying, “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.”

“You people of Meatu keep livestock. You are good farmers. You can feed your children. Why would you opt for birth control?” he asked.

According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) only a third of women in Tanzania use family planning, because of limited access to birth control and information, especially in rural areas, and on average give birth to five children.

President Magufuli went on to blame foreigners for encouraging the use of birth control and urged citizens to reproduce as the government is allegedly investing in maternal health and district hospitals.

Read: “After getting pregnant, you are done!” says President John Magufuli

“I have travelled to Europe and I have seen the effects of birth control. In some countries they are now struggling with a declining population. They have no labour force.”

Although the comments are unlikely to lead to national policy changes, campaigners fear his speech may influence the services that are offered in some areas. As it is, Tanzania ratified the Maputo Protocol, which gave women the right to control their fertility and choose any method of contraception – however much this is diminished by the severely limited access to services.

Judy Gitau, the regional coordinator for Africa for the charity Equality Now, told the Guardian newspaper that, “It’s a statement by a sitting head of state at a time when Tanzania takes every statement that he issues to be law… From past experiences, whenever the president issues a statement on a given issue, in practice it becomes policy, and so we can expect ramifications.

“We will end up with women having unplanned children and huge families, unable to sustain their lives.”