Panel Highlights the Contribution of Maternal Health to Achievement of the MDGs

15 April 2010
Author: UNFPA

UNITED NATIONS — As the Commission on Population and Development addressed the overall theme of health, mortality, morbidity and development, a side panel organized by UNFPA looked at the contribution of reproductive health to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

“We all agree that the time of birth should be an occasion of joy and celebration, not a time of grief, loss and mourning,” said UNFPA Deputy Executive Director (Programme) Purnima Mane in her opening remarks. “There are many reasons to make women’s health a priority, and I will start with just one. We will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals to create a better world unless we first improve the health and rights of women.”

Each of the other panelists, bringing with them perspectives from different organizations, regions and constituencies, reaffirmed the idea that a human rights-based approach to maternal health, including family planning, is critical to achieving international goals.

“We are revisiting the role of family planning, and I think it’s great,” said Maria Isabel Plata, president of the Profamilia, a Colombia NGO and UN Population Award laureate. “We cannot do it the way we did it 30 or 40 years ago,” she said, pointing to the need for rights-based approaches that reach out to the most disadvantaged groups.

Speaking highly about and referring to figures published in the recent Adding it Up publication, Ms. Plata emphasized the cost-effectiveness of combining family planning with maternal health. Helping mothers reduce unintended pregnancies, while providing a basic package of care for mothers and newborns, can result in a net savings of 1.5 billion, she noted.

Michelle Maloney-Kitts from PEPFAR (the U.S. Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) addressed the need for an integrated approach to reproductive health and HIV interventions. Two key entry points are primary prevention and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). “PCMTC should be straightforward,” she said. “We have treatment. We should be able to get results.” She said that among HIV-positive women, the rate of unintended pregnancies ranges from 51 to 91 per cent. For those HIV-positive women who do want to have children, sensitive care should be available, she added.

Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for young women (ages 15 to 19) in the developing world, said Neha Sood, a member of the India Youth Coalition. Each year, some 70,000 young women are dying because they are not allowed to make the decision on when to give birth, she added. One of the strategies to overcome this is to involve young people in the policy decision-making that concerns them, including access to reproductive health. “Partnering with young people will help governments come closer to the MDG goals,” she said.

And the success of this partnering, not only with the youth, but also the communities, faith-based organizations and religious leaders was outlined by Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, former Health Minister from Nigeria. Nigeria now has a National Strategic Health Development Plan that gives Reproductive Health top priority.

Population : 50.9 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 75%
Girls 80%

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