The U.N. on Wednesday “presented a plan to make life-saving health supplies more accessible, while a new report found that, despite impressive reductions in maternal and child mortality in the past decade in some countries, millions of women and children still die every year from preventable causes,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “With its new plan, the U.N. Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children aims to improve access and use of essential medicines, medical devices and health supplies that effectively address causes of death during pregnancy, childbirth and into childhood,” the news service writes (9/26). “Prices for long-acting contraception will be halved for 27 million women in the developing world through [the] new partnership, former President Bill Clinton and other world leaders announced” on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, the Associated Press writes. “The deal will help avoid almost 30 million unwanted pregnancies and save an estimated $250 million in health costs, the partnership said,” according to the AP (DePasquale, 9/26).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog continues its series, published in partnership with Women Deliver, to recognize World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26. The following pieces were published recently:
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, in partnership with Women Deliver, on Wednesday published two posts on youth perspectives to celebrate World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26. In the first, Yemurai Nyoni, a 22 year old youth advocate for sexual and reproductive health from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, writes, “[A]s a young person living in Africa, it is often difficult for us to realize our sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially when it comes to family planning,” adding, “As we celebrate World Contraception Day, I call upon African leaders to engage their conscience, apply adequate reason, and take urgent actions to facilitate increased access to and utilization of family planning services by sexually active young people” (9/12). In the second, Janna Oberdorf, a journalist and communications specialist at Women Deliver, writes, “Young people have the right to access accurate and unbiased information about contraception and safe sex, which they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and improve their lives in a number of ways. … Access to quality health services and supplies and accurate information is a basic right, and young people around the world are beginning to mobilize” (9/12).
In a post on IntraHealth’s “Global Health Blog,” Rebecca Kohler, senior vice president of corporate strategy and development at IntraHealth, writes about an event held last week on the sidelines of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) that “focused on the vital role of women’s health in foreign policy.” She writes, “I was encouraged by the level of commitment to a robust global family planning program on the part of our U.S. Congresswomen and the convention delegates. But I also was inspired by the effective role the U.N. Foundation plays in informing, mobilizing, and activating Americans across the country about critical health and development challenges.” Noting that the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2012 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health “shows that the more informed the public is about global health issues, and how U.S. foreign assistance is saving lives, the more likely they are to support increased funding for health beyond this country’s borders,” Kohler concludes, “Informed and activated Americans are a driving force for change, and the DNC advocacy event was a great reminder that despite the hyper focus on domestic issues during this campaign, people can and do care about global issues” (9/10).
“There should be #NoControversy about a woman’s right to plan when and how many children to have, to have the opportunity to improve her own health and that of her children, to educate her children and to grow her family’s economic productivity,” Gary Darmstadt, head of the family health division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Wendy Prosser, a research analyst with the family health division, write in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. The authors highlight a recent TEDxChange talk by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, in which “she addresses the issues surrounding birth control and how it is literally life-saving for millions of women and children around the world.” They continue, “But of course, any time politics, religion, and sex are intertwined, controversy tends to emerge,” and discuss several viewpoints that have emerged in media coverage of the issue (5/14).
The Guttmacher Institute on Friday released a media update examining the impact of U.S. international family planning assistance. The update highlights the benefits supported by $610 million “appropriated for U.S. assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs for FY 2012” and states, “These gains would be seriously jeopardized if this already modest funding for the program were to be cut again,” noting that “reductions of different magnitudes would have proportional effects” (4/27).
CNN reports on how “[t]he issue of forced abortions — and in some cases, forced sterilizations — in China has seized the spotlight in recent days with news of escaped activist Chen Guangcheng,” who “rose to fame in the late 1990s because of his advocacy for what he calls victims of abusive practices, such as forced abortions, by Chinese family planning officials.” China’s so-called “one-child policy has been blamed for abuses,” the news service reports. The news service writes, “In some cases, advocates say, fetuses identified as female are aborted, … abandoned, left to die or raised as orphans,” as “Chinese traditionally prefer boys over girls.” CNN describes several reports from women’s health advocates working in China of women undergoing forced abortion and sterilization; a report from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “created by Congress to monitor human rights and the rule of law in China”; and the State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report, the news service notes.
Inter Press Service examines the relationship between climate change and family planning in least-developed countries (LDCs), writing the “double challenge of mitigating climate change and combating crushing poverty makes improving reproductive rights and promoting gender equality imperatives that can no longer be delayed, according to several recent reports and agreements.” IPS highlights several reports and agreements, including an agreement between U.N. Women and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) that “aims at tackling gender inequality in the 75 OIF member states, most of which are also LDCs”; an agreement between U.N. Women and the European Union “to strengthen cooperation between the two organizations in their work on gender equality”; and the Royal Society of London’s People and the Planet report, “which focuses on reproductive rights and social justice as cornerstones of global economic sustainability” (Godoy, 5/30).
“[I]n an exclusive interview with Newsweek,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discussed how “she has decided to make family planning her signature issue and primary public health a priority.” Gates said, “My goal is to get this back on the global agenda,” the news service writes. “Gates believes that by focusing on the lives of women and children, and by making it clear that the agenda is neither coercive population control nor abortion, the controversy over international family planning programs can be defused,” according to Newsweek.
India “has to actively and aggressively address the issue of family planning” in order to improve human development indicators, including health, education and living standards, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin said Wednesday, Reuters reports. “India, Asia’s third-largest economy, is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030,” but, “despite its impressive economic growth over the last two decades, it has failed to substantially reduce hunger as well as child and maternal mortality rates,” the news service writes, noting that “[a]bout 60 percent of Indian women have no access to family planning services.”