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As the climate crisis intensifies, Australia and UNFPA work together to address family planning needs in Pacific Island countries

27 Jun 2022

As the climate crisis intensifies, Australia and UNFPA work together to address family planning needs in Pacific Island countries
Family members from Tanna Island, Vanuatu, gather to work in the garden and collect food for their evening meal. Under the Australian Government-funded Transformative Agenda programme, UNFPA works to end unmet need for family planning in Vanuatu and other Pacific Island countries. © UNFPA/Niki Kuautonga

UNITED NATIONS, New York – The Government of Australia recently released AUD $7 million to UNFPA, the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health agency, as part of a four-year, AUD $30 million programme to transform the lives of women, adolescents and youth in the Pacific sub-region by reducing unmet need for family planning and increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services.

The Transformative Agenda programme was launched in June 2018 to reduce the unmet need for family planning in six priority countries - Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu - with a focus on women, adolescents and youth, including those with disabilities.

The Pacific Islands are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, where the impacts of the climate crisis and intensifying disasters leave women and girls more vulnerable and isolated. Climate-related emergencies cause major disruptions in access to health services. As a result, women and girls often lack fundamental reproductive, maternal health and family planning resources and services. The Transformative Agenda is designed to ensure that, even during emergencies, sexual and reproductive health services remain available so that women’s and girls’ needs remain at the forefront of humanitarian responses.

The four-year partnership between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and UNFPA supports a holistic vision for the future of the Pacific. It aims to create an enabling environment for people to access family planning information and services by proposing evidence-based legislation, public policies and programmes to support disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness and response.

In recent years, the programme has prevented more than 100,000 unintended pregnancies, over 10,000 unsafe abortions and 640 maternal deaths. Health workers across the six countries are also trained to provide rights-based family planning services for women aimed at empowering them to make informed contraceptive choices.

“Given the frequency of natural disasters in the Pacific, the Transformative Agenda ensures that information and services around sexual and reproductive health remain available and accessible even during emergencies,” said Saira Shameem, Deputy Director of the UNFPA Pacific Sub Regional Office. “This is particularly important given the disproportionate effect that crises have on women, girls and people with disabilities. Protecting and promoting their rights and health are key to moving towards zero unmet need for family planning in the Pacific.”

In early 2021, when Fiji was hit by a cyclone while the island was still recovering from tropical Cyclone Yasa, and severely hit by a COVID-19 outbreak in the spring, UNFPA supported the resource-stretched government by providing reproductive, clinical and family planning services. UNFPA deployed 23 midwives and mobilized medical equipment and commodities to assist over 16,000 people between April and December 2021. Services including family planning, pre- and post-natal care, labor and delivery, and COVID-19 vaccinations for pregnant women were supported. 

Millions of Pacific Islanders will face increasing challenges in the coming years, and women and girls will bear the brunt of the devastating consequences. With the Transformative Agenda, UNFPA is better equipped to respond faster and more efficiently, ensuring that women and young people can access life-saving reproductive health services and supplies, and stay at the center of the climate response. 

The Transformative Agenda is one of Australia’s largest partnerships with UNFPA. In 2021, Australia was the 11th-highest contributor to UNFPA.

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