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World Population Day Focuses on Safe Pregnancies

Today (Wednesday) is World Population Day – and UN officials say it is a time to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS and every girl is treated with dignity and respect.

Aminata Toure is the head of the Gender, Culture and Human Rights Branch of the UN Population Fund. From New York, she told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that too many women die needlessly each year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

“What we are talking about now is like half a million women dying (of) complications after pregnancy or during pregnancies. So it’s a huge number. And one would wonder if it was for a different cause it’s attention would be much higher. But because in many settings maternity and death of mothers are taken as a thing of nature, the world is still not paying enough attention to this drama,” she says.

The theme of this year’s World Population Day is: Men as Partners in Maternal Health.

“Questions relating to pregnancy and maternal health are seen as women’s issues. But we do know at the same time that men, in many places, still hold the decision-making power when it comes to deciding about when to have children, how many children to have within the family. Women still don’t have total control over these issues. In many settings the decision belongs to men. So, if you really want to change things it’s very important that men get involved at the very early stage and at every single stage of pregnancies and marriage and all -- the issues related to reproductive health,” she says.

Toure says there are a number of things that can be done now to save many women’s lives. “First of all, the whole issue around deciding when and how many children to have, the issue of contraceptives…. [As] we speak now, 20 million women lack safe access to contraception. So making family planning methods available to all women. Second, making sure that women deliver (babies) in safe conditions with skilled birth attendants. And third, to make sure that women, when needed, can access emergency obstetric care. These three strategies would really improve the situation. And a fourth one, which is a very important one, is to really empower women, whether it is socially, culturally or economically, so they can take decision by their own when it comes to their health.”