Press Release

UNFPA Welcomes Commission for Africa Report

17 Mar 2005

UNITED NATIONS, New York—Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, today welcomed the new report by the Commission for Africa, saying: "UNFPA supports the report’s findings and pledges to continue its close cooperation with all concerned, particularly African governments, to ensure that key recommendations are put into effect for the well being of every African man, woman and child.

"UNFPA particularly welcomes the Commission’s call for strong African leadership to promote women's and men's right to reproductive health, which would save millions of lives by preventing HIV infection and reducing high rates of maternal and child mortality.

"What makes us particularly optimistic about this bold initiative is that it asks governments to end the stigma and gender discrimination associated with sexual and reproductive health, and calls on them to partner with the civil society, particularly religious and traditional leaders, to achieve this goal."

Maternal mortality rates in Africa are the highest in the world, with more than 250,000 women dying each year from complications in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to 1,500 in Europe. "In the coming decade, Africa will have its largest number of childbearing women," said Ms. Obaid. "Without greater access to family planning, antenatal care, skilled attendance at delivery, and emergency obstetric care, the numbers of deaths will only rise and the Millennium Development Goals will not be met."

"The Commission’s recommendation to boost spending for health personnel, systems and services is consistent with UNFPA’s strategy to dedicate more human and financial resources for Africa’s development, particularly for reproductive health services, which are urgently needed and in increasing demand," she said.

At the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, world leaders agreed to provide $18.5 billion annually for population and reproductive health services in developing countries, with one-third to come from the donor nations. This promise, however, has not been met, leading to serious consequences for improving public health and addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic effectively. The report highlights this urgency by referring to UNFPA estimates that an additional $300 million a year is required to make up the gap in reproductive health commodity requirements. This gap is made painfully clear by the fact that only 4 condoms are available each year for every African man.

Noting the Commission’s call on African governments to feature reproductive health prominently within their health systems, Ms. Obaid said: “UNFPA welcomes this call, and is actively working with the African Union and NEPAD to integrate reproductive health into their development frameworks.”

Contact Information:

Omar Gharzeddine
or visit www.unfpa.org
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5028
Email: gharzeddine@unfpa.org

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