UNFPA: Statement by Ms. Purnima Mane, Deputy Executive Director

Calling for Greater Attention to Family Planning

 


Family Planning: Key to Saving Lives

 

 


Statement by Ms. Purnima Mane, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director (Programme), at Commission on Population and Development side-event;

“Family Planning: Key to Saving Lives”

 

” Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Colleagues and friends,

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us today at this very important event.

 

Seventeen years ago, in Cairo, 179 governments, bolstered by civil society, took a historic step at the International Conference on Population and Development. They defined reproductive rights as human rights, recognized sexual health as a component of reproductive health, and called for universal access to reproductive health care by 2015.

The ICPD vision remains at the heart of the definition of family planning and continues to inform its position in the development agenda at large and as part of reproductive health in particular.

Access to family planning is a human right. It is a critical part of fulfilling the fundamental right of couples and individuals to choose when and how many children to have and it is a key element in the universal right to the highest level of attainable health. It is, as the title of this event states, a key to saving lives.

In a world full of problems that are seemingly impossible to solve, providing universal access to voluntary family planning as part of a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health package is a challenge that we can take on and meet.

We know what needs to be done, we know how to do it and we know what it costs. Everyone has a stake and everyone stands to gain. It is a true win-win situation that would accelerate progress towards virtually all development objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals.

In many ways, family planning is already one of the biggest development and public health successes of the past 50 years. It has saved the lives of millions of women and children, it has helped to slow down population growth, and it has supported families to break the cycle of poverty.

Today, 63 per cent of women of reproductive age in developing countries use a method of family planning. That’s an impressive achievement considering that in 1960, that number was just 10 per cent.

It is not only right to invest in family planning – it is also sound economics. Investing in family planning as part of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health package is one of the most cost-effective health interventions. It actually saves money from other health and public expenses.

And when a woman is healthy and has choices, she can deliver for her family and community and contribute to the development of the whole nation. When a woman can plan her family, she can plan her life.

Yet, the current situation of family planning is far from where it should be. There are an estimated 215 million women in the developing world who want to delay or avoid pregnancy, but who are not using modern contraception largely because they don’t have access to it, they fear its side effects or their families object to it.

Despite its proven impact on social and economic development, family planning has fallen behind on the international development agenda, and, despite the increasing demand, funding for family planning has remained stagnant over the past decade. This has hindered efforts to decrease maternal deaths and morbidities, curb the HIV epidemic and prevent unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

Moreover, the global figures on unmet need disguise the reality of many vulnerable and marginalized groups.

The poor, the rural, and the young are especially disadvantaged in terms of accessing family planning services.

Over half the people on earth are under 30, and their decisions about sexual behaviour and childbearing – and their access to family planning services – will be critical to the future size, dynamics and well-being of the world population. When defining needs and creating solutions, young people must be front and center in the political decision making, so we can reach solutions that are appropriate to their needs and sustainable.

Reducing inequities and meaningfully involving young people is absolutely vital if we are serious about ensuring universal access to family planning as a key component of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health.

To make universal access to reproductive health and women’s empowerment a reality, we need a greater political and financial commitment to family planning.

Most governments in poor countries have adopted appropriate population and family planning policies – now it is time to implement them. Reproductive health, including family planning, must be made a priority in national budgets and efforts to strengthen health systems.

According to last year’s estimate, an additional $2.6 billion is needed to cover the direct cost of family planning. Current funding levels are a fraction of that, Moreover, it is estimated that the demand for voluntary family planning will grow by 40 per cent by mid-century.

It is critical to make sure that the right supplies in the right quantities are available so that women and men can choose the method that works best for them. This means that, as part of the overall investment, donor funding for family planning commodities must steadily increase from around $200 million to about $400 million by 2015.

There also needs to be a system in place to get the contraceptives to community health centers with trained health workers and those most marginalized, especially in remote areas.

Equally important is making sure that women and men are educated on the benefits of family planning. In this context, we must recognize cultural differences and work with communities by engaging in dialogue, listening, sharing knowledge and insights, and jointly planning the way to move ahead. Success, we have learned, requires patience, a willingness to listen carefully and a respect for cultural diversity.

UNFPA works to meet the ICPD goal of “ensuring universal access to reproductive health” which is reiterated by MDG 5b and sees family planning as a cornerstone of the reproductive health agenda.

The Fund advocates the right of all people to voluntarily decide the number and timing of their children. We support programmes that improve access to family planning services, offer a broad selection of choices, reflect high standards of quality of care, are sensitive to cultural conditions and address women’s other reproductive health needs.

The Fund works to establish a reliable, consistent supply of reproductive health commodities worldwide by building logistical and management capacity at the country level.

Through the Global Programme to Enhance Reproductive Health Commodity Security, UNFPA and its partners assess country needs for contraceptives, essential life-saving medicines and equipment and tailor support accordingly. These efforts are leading towards measurable impacts, such as better logistical systems and declines in stock-outs.

Moreover, with funding from the European Commission, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and USAID, UNFPA is managing an innovative procurement mechanism that is improving access to quality, affordable contraceptives, and providing up-to-date information on contraceptive orders and shipments for more than 100 countries.

With more resources, the Fund could have an even greater impact. And let me emphasize that in everything UNFPA does, we’re joined by partners that come from all sectors of society, including governments, civil society, private sector and the UN system.

With the Secretary-General’s Global Strategy – Every Woman, Every Child – there is now an unprecedented momentum around women’s and children’s health.

Already, through consultations with the H4+ partnership between UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank, many developing countries have made important commitments to accelerate progress to fill the unmet need in family planning and meet MDGs 4 and 5.

Another exciting initiative is the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition’s goal to reach 100 million new users of modern contraception by 2015. Achieving this would lead to 96 million fewer unintended pregnancies, 54 million fewer abortions, 110,000 fewer maternal and 1.4 million fewer infant deaths.

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now is the time to seize that momentum and advance universal access to sexual and reproductive health, including family planning. We need to keep pushing to make the right to sexual and reproductive health a priority, and we need to keep pushing to make universal access to reproductive health a reality by 2015.

We know it can be done, we know how to do it, and we know what it will take to get it done. Meeting this goal would not only greatly improve women’s and children’s health but it would bring to overall socio-economic development.

All we need to do is give voluntary family planning the priority and resources it deserves in global development and the will and determination to make it happen.

Thank you.”

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