Press Release

Countries Must Ensure Access to Reproductive Health Supplies, Experts Stress

13 Jun 2002

Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire - Governments in developing countries should do everything possible to secure the supply of reproductive health essentials, and to strengthen policies and laws ensuring access to such commodities. These were the keys recommendations of an expert meeting held here from 10 to 13 June.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) organized the regional workshop on Reproductive Health Commodity Security (RHCS) as part of its support for countries' efforts to increase access to these products. The objective was to translate UNFPA's global RHCS strategy into national action plans.

Reliable access to contraceptives and other commodities is a fundamental requirement for reproductive health. Yet millions of women and men in developing countries go without these essentials, leaving them vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, and the risk of childbirth without basic equipment or medical supplies.

While the need for reproductive health products is rising, donor support is declining. During the 1990s, governments and individuals provided 60 per cent of the costs of contraceptives worldwide, while donors covered 40 per cent of the costs. Donor support has since declined, however, to around 27 per cent of the total.

Each $1 million shortfall in support for contraceptives means an estimated:

  • 360,000 more unwanted pregnancies;
  • 150,000 additional induced abortions;
  • 800 maternal deaths;
  • 11,000 infants deaths;
  • 14,000 additional deaths of children under 5.

In this situation it is urgent to take measures to help developing countries' reproductive health programmes become self-sustaining and to help them ensure that the reproductive health supply and distribution chain work efficiently.

UNFPA's strategy is a step in this direction, with the aim to help develop and install national RHCS plans, beginning with a better understanding based on an analysis of the situation regarding RHCS in each country.

The meeting brought together staff from 25 UNFPA country offices countries in francophone Africa and their national counterparts, as well as global reproductive health experts, donor representatives, NGO representatives and staff from UNFPA Headquarters and the Fund's regional technical support team in Dakar. After three and a half days of discussion, participants adopted a series of recommendations to improve RHCS, encouraging countries to take responsibility.

It is not a coincidence that the two first workshops to implement the global strategy were held in the Africa (the first took place in Mombasa in November 2001). With HIV/AIDS now the number one cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa and governments struggling to fund health services, wider access to reproductive health care is an urgent need.

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UNFPA is the world's largest international source of population assistance. The Fund helps developing countries and countries with economics in transition, at their request, to improve reproductive health and family planning services (including HIV prevention) and to formulate population policies and strategies in support of sustainable development. About a quarter of all population assistance from donor nations to developing countries is channelled through UNFPA. Since it began in 1969, the Fund has provided some $5.6 billion in assistance.

Contact Information:

Kristin Hetle
Tel.: +1 212-297-5020
Email: hetle@unfpa.org

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