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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid