News / Africa

    UN Called on to Fulfill Family Planning Promises

    Joe DeCapua

    It’s estimated that every year nearly 360,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes. Most of the deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa. As the United Nations General Assembly opens a new session, it’s being called on to provide more family planning services to hundreds of millions of women.

    In 1994, the international community agreed that family planning should be an integral part of reproductive health. The International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo issued a program of action that called for “the provision of universal access to reproductive health services, including family planning and sexual health.”

    But 17 years after the conference, advocates say promises remain unfulfilled.

    Action needed now

    The Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health says family planning services are needed now more than ever as the world population soars. It’s expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. The council is made up of current and former senior leaders from more than a dozen countries, as well as other health advocates.

    “Reproductive health is not just important to women. It’s important to humanity, as we all know. I mean it’s the basis of our survival and the propagation of the human race,” said Joy Phumaphi, former minister of health in Botswana and a member of the council.

    “It is absolutely critical that at any point in time a family only has the number of children that it can afford to take care of and bring up into well-rounded citizens. And it is also critical that a family is able to space these children and have them at intervals that enable them to bring up each child effectively,” she said.

    Out of sight, out of mind?

    “It seems to have dropped off the radar in recent years. When HIV became uppermost and funding had to be got for HIV, It looks as if family planning lost priority,” said Dr. Fred Sai of Ghana, a former professor of medicine and past president of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation. He, too, is a member of the Global Leaders Council of Reproductive Health.

    Sai said in Ghana early marriage is a common practice - one that can put the health of young girls at risk.

    “A girl gets married at about 14. I don’t say she should be. It would be best if we can give them education so they don’t get married at 14. But if they do, if they have no preventive, they start getting pregnant. This leads to a whole lot of health problems,” he said.

    Without readily available family planning, Sai said a country’s social and health services can be overwhelmed.

    “We want free education for our children. We want free health services for our children and people. And the more we try to build the competencies to deal with education, competencies to deal with health, facilities to deal with health, the more we have new entrants,” he said.

    Former Botswana health minister Phumaphi agreed.

    “We have countries in sub-Saharan Africa where over 50 percent of the population is either young people or children. We have this youth bulge. We have a child bulge, which we cannot keep pace with,” she said.

    Cairo conference

    At the 1994 Cairo conference, recommendations included family planning counseling, pre- and post-natal care and education on human sexuality and reproductive health.

    Opposition came from the Vatican, Muslim nations and conservatives in the United States. One concern was that the recommendations would promote abortion as a fundamental right and would encourage it as a method of family planning.

    Dr. Sai said a woman’s health should not be a matter of religion or politics.

    “People should be left without knowledge so that they die in ignorance when the health things are there to save them, when they can prevent it. I find that argument very difficult because some say that when you teach youngsters how to look after their bodies, then you are tending to teach them how to be promiscuous. I think it’s only in this field that you teach somebody something and then they do the wrong thing only. We teach things so they know what the choices are,” he said.

    Sai said he wants African families to have the same family planning choices as Americans. Phumaphi says it’s time to invest in family planning.

    “We have to make it a priority in the same way that we made HIV/AIDS a priority, that we made malaria a priority. We have to make it a priority,” he said.

    The Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health is chaired by former Irish president Mary Robinson. It’s calling for a doubling of investment in reproductive health in poor countries to $6.7 billion.

    Critics have said lowering fertility rates will not necessarily bring economic benefits and that family planning programs are not always effective. Other criticisms include concerns that such programs may coerce women to take part rather than volunteer. And that the programs may be culturally insensitive or violate religious beliefs.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora