With Australia, working towards zero unmet need for family planning in the Pacific island countries

16 May 2018

A woman holding a dignity kit stands with her two children outside their home in ‘Eua, which was damaged when Tropical Cyclone Gita hit Tonga in February 2018. © Tomoko Kurokawa/UNFPA Pacific

The Government of Australia has contributed $A30 million to UNFPA for a new four-year programme to transform the lives of women, adolescents and youth in the Pacific sub-region by reducing unmet need for family planning and strengthening sexual and reproductive health services.

Launching in June 2018 in Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, the programme will emphasize the inclusion of vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities and survivors of gender-based violence. Given the Pacific islands’ vulnerability to natural disasters, it is designed to ensure that sexual and reproductive health services remain available during emergencies – a cornerstone of UNFPA’s humanitarian response.

Through this programme, UNFPA and Australia are piloting a holistic vision for the Pacific.

“Our new Strategic Plan 2018-2021 has three transformational results: Zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and zero gender-based violence and other harmful practices against women and girls,” explained Bjorn Andersson, UNFPA Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “Australia’s support for the Pacific island nations we serve will contribute strongly to helping achieve this vision.”

Improving supply and boosting demand

With a range of national, regional and global partners, UNFPA will work to make high-quality services and information more available to women, adolescents and youth, and to develop health workers’ management and clinical skills while aligning guidelines and protocols with international standards, including for addressing gender-based violence.

Unloading UNFPA supplies in Tonga. © James Deane/Australian High Commission Tonga

To increase demand for services, UNFPA will partner with civil society organizations, disabled people’s organizations, youth groups, faith groups and media, among others, to engage communities to support sexual and reproductive health, especially contraceptive choice. UNFPA will also work with government ministries, teacher’s colleges, teachers, parents and youth to empower young people through community- and school-based family life education.

These efforts will raise awareness, create spaces for dialogue and community leadership, and challenge attitudes and behaviours that discourage people from seeking out available services.

Evidence-based and inclusive

UNFPA and partners will work to expand evidence-based legislation, public policy and programming that support sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially for youth, people with disabilities, and survivors of violence, including in disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness and response. The aim is to create an enabling environment for health and education providers to offer quality education and services – and for individuals and families to make informed decisions freely.

To identify inequities in access to services and information, UNFPA will work to improve the availability of quality disaggregated data on priority populations and sexual and reproductive health, together with partners including national statistical offices, UNICEF and the Secretariat for the Pacific Community. Better data will make it possible to advocate for, design and implement more targeted and effective policies and programming.

Bruce Campbell, director of UNFPA’s Pacific Sub-Regional Office in Fiji, characterized the project’s life-cycle approach as integral to the Fund’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its imperative to leave no one behind.

“All the work that we do, from pregnancy through childhood and adolescence to adulthood, aims to ensure that individuals, families and communities are empowered to make key life choices from a rights-based perspective,” he said.

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