BANGKOK—Today, on World Population Day, countries across Asia and the Pacific will highlight the need for universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, as leaders in London launch an unprecedented initiative to give 120 million more women access to voluntary family planning by 2020.
In Myanmar, for example, the Government, the United Kingdom and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, will announce commitments to improve the health of mothers and children by making contraceptives more widely available. (See press release)
Six countries from the region (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines) are partners in the London Summit on Family Planning, where new commitments to improve and scale up services in the world’s poorest countries are expected.
At the summit the health minister of Bangladesh, for instance, will affirm his Government’s intention to provide more long-acting contraceptives to reduce discontinuation rates, and seek support to close an estimated $190 million funding gap for family planning needs in the next decade.
Family planning, safe motherhood and the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections are key components of sexual and reproductive health services. Universal access to such services is a global target under the Millennium Development Goals, as its achievement would sharply reduce maternal deaths, alleviate poverty and support women’s empowerment worldwide.
Fulfilling the unmet demand for contraception among women in developing countries could reduce global maternal mortality by nearly a third, according to a study reported this week in The Lancet.
To raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health, UNFPA country offices and their national partners are organizing a variety of World Population Day events and campaigns—including debates, essay and photo contests, TV and radio talk shows, billboard campaigns, a family planning fair and a march for universal access.
The national World Population Day events will coincide with the London summit hosted by the UK Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with UNFPA, governments and civil society groups.
The summit aims to sustain coverage for the 260 million current contraceptive users in the world's poorest countries and give 120 million more women access to family planning by 2020, by mobilizing the extra resources needed to increase the demand for family planning, improve supply chains and service delivery models, and procure the necessary additional commodities.
Improving access to family planning as part of national health systems “is one of the smartest and most cost-effective investments countries can make towards sustainable development and the empowerment of women and young people,” says UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.
An estimated 38 per cent of all pregnancies in Asia are unintended, and 21 per cent of pregnancies end in induced abortion, indicating a high unmet need for contraception. Throughout the region, surveys indicate unmet need is twice as high among the poorest fifth of the population as among the richest fifth, and in many countries the highest unmet need is among young people aged 15-24.
In South Asia, just 46 per cent of married women aged 15-49 use modern contraceptives, compared to 62 per cent for the region as a whole. Obstacles to greater contraceptive use include the limited choice of methods available in some countries and inadequate counselling skills among health care providers.
Achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health services was a central goal of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). A survey conducted over the next three months as part of a global review process will ask governments to assess progress in implementing the ICPD Programme of Action.
For more information, please contact:
William A. Ryan, Regional Communications Adviser, [email protected], mobile +66 89 897 6984.
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UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that is delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.