The London Summit on Family Planning, co-sponsored by the U.K. government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with support from UNFPA and other partners, is scheduled to take place next week. The following blog posts address the summit and the issue of family planning.
Access to Health Services
Advocates Leave Rio+20 'More Determined Than Ever' To Secure Access To Reproductive Rights For All Women
“There is a direct correlation between access to voluntary family planning, women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability,” author Diane MacEachern writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “And though the official delegates to last week’s ‘Earth Summit’ tried to water it down, thousands of grassroots activists made it one of the biggest issues to rock Rio+20, as the event was also called.” She continues, “Women took these issues to Rio because more than 200 million women in the U.S. and around the world cannot choose whether or when to have a baby, simply because they don’t have access to voluntary family planning.”
Philippines To Spend Nearly $12M On Contraceptives To Bolster Family Planning, Reduce Maternal Mortality Rate
The government of the Philippines plans to spend nearly $12 million on contraceptives this year in an effort to “save its ‘failed’ family planning program and drastically cut maternal deaths,” according to the Department of Health, IRIN reports. However, “[i]t is a controversial decision that even public health officials and family planning advocates admit may not be carried out by local officials wary of angering the [Catholic] Church or losing the votes of Catholic supporters,” the news service writes. In addition to purchasing and distributing condoms, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), birth control pills, and other contraceptives “on a large scale for the first time in largely underfunded community centers across the country,” health officials say the plan “is aimed at cutting maternal mortality rates, which went from just 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 221 in 2011 — a rise [of] 35 percent — according to the government’s 2011 Family Health Survey,” IRIN notes.
Advocacy Groups Say Corruption Leaving Millions Of HIV-Positive Ukrainians Without Treatment, AP Reports
The Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle reports on how Ukrainian “advocacy groups are accusing the government of embezzling millions of dollars in corrupt drug tenders and thus depriving patients of vital treatment.” The news service notes, “Of the estimated 450,000 Ukrainians who are HIV-positive, 70,000 require urgent treatment today, … [but] only 28,000 are receiving it, leaving over 40,000 of patients without antiretroviral therapy, which could greatly prolong their lives, according to WHO.” Igor Pokanevych, head of the WHO Country Office in Ukraine, said, “More resources should be allocated to fight against AIDS in this country,” but the AP reports that “advocacy groups charge that the government in fact has the necessary funds to treat all of its AIDS patients” and “accuse health ministry officials [of] embezzling money that should be used to treat patients by buying AIDS drugs at hugely inflated prices and then pocketing kickbacks.”
Gates Foundation Plans To Invest In Biotech Companies To Improve Global Access To Treatments, Vaccines For Infectious Diseases
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “plans to take equity stakes in up to a dozen biotech companies this year, signaling a shift towards a ‘venture capital’ approach at the world’s biggest philanthropic organization” and “mark[ing] a further move away from its traditional approach of grant-giving and towards a more business-oriented way to support the development of treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases affecting the world’s poor,” the Financial Times reports. Trevor Mundel, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, said the foundation will make a series of investments worth several million dollars each “and not ask for a return but for global access. … We will specify the countries and the diseases,” according to the newspaper. The Financial Times notes that “[t]he move points to growing interest in working directly with companies rather than primarily through co-operating via non-profit ‘product development partnerships’ or intermediaries such as the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Tuberculosis Alliance” (Jack, 6/26).
The “groundbreaking” London Summit on Family Planning, scheduled for July 11, “aims to provide an additional 120 million women … lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020,” Gary Darmstadt, who heads the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. If that goal is reached, the health and economic benefits would be “staggering,” he says, laying out the five guiding principles to the world’s “collective efforts to revitalize family planning.” Those principles include improving “political commitment, funding, and collaboration”; promoting equal rights among women and girls; strengthening voluntary family planning programs under existing infrastructure; and holding stakeholders accountable, he writes, and concludes, “The time to come together is now. The global community has the chance to achieve transformational results that will save millions of lives” (6/28).
In this post in the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog, Helen Hamilton, policy adviser for neglected tropical diseases at Sightsavers, reflects on the Rio+20 conference, “which took place last week in Brazil to discuss how the world can develop more sustainably.” She writes, “Following three long days of discussions on water, climate change and other sustainable development topics to advocate for this group of debilitating diseases, I left feeling there were some hopeful signs.” She discusses the final outcome document from the conference, titled “The Future We Want,” (.pdf) and writes that “with 2.5 billion people not having access to adequate sanitation it was the evolution from just discussing the right to access water to discussing water AND sanitation that was so refreshing” (6/28).
“As a young woman, I felt confident in my future because I knew I had the power to plan my family,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “What if every girl and woman in the world, even the poorest, had the opportunity to determine her future?” she asks and provides video footage of her addressing this question on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” on Wednesday. “Surely, there’s no controversy in all of us coming together to help women and girls lead healthy and productive lives,” she writes and asks readers to “pledge [their] support around the uncontroversial idea that every girl and woman deserves the opportunity to determine her future” (6/28).
In this post in the RH Reality Check blog, Laura Hoemeke, director of communications and knowledge management at IntraHealth International, writes that it “take[s] a health worker, or more accurately millions of health workers, to meet the need that hundreds of millions of couples worldwide have for family planning,” adding, “A…
“Around the world, frontline health workers are often the first link to lifesaving care and supplies, and in some cases they are the only link for families and communities in rural and impoverished areas,” Oying Rimon, a senior program officer in family health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,…