Improving access to family planning for the 222 million women who lack such services would bring many benefits, including helping to reduce maternal mortality and improve infant survival, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin says in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, citing the recently released State of the World Population 2012 report. However, “[i]n many poor countries, contraceptives may not be available or families may lack the money to buy them,” and “social barriers and family resistance are also powerful barriers,” he says, adding, “So too is the lack of proper health or distribution systems or trained workers to give confidential advice.” He continues, “This huge unmet need comes despite the fact that there is almost universal agreement that access to family planning is a human right. By denying this right, we are putting other basic rights at risk across the world.”
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
UNFPA Calls Family Planning An ‘Essential Human Right,’ Says Meeting Unmet Need Could Save More Than $11B Annually
In its annual State of the World Population 2012 report, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday “called family planning an ‘essential human right’ and urged the world’s nations to help meet the needs of 222 million women in developing countries,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports (Pecquet, 11/14). According to Inter Press Service, the report “says the huge unmet need for family planning persists, ‘despite international agreements and human rights treaties that promote individuals’ rights to make their own decisions about when and how often to have children'” (11/14). However, “[i]t is the first time the … annual report explicitly describes family planning as a human right,” the Associated Press notes, adding, “It effectively declares that legal, cultural, and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s rights” (11/14). “UNFPA insists that family planning is not optional; it is a fundamental right, and the obligation to fulfill it is a formal treaty obligation,” IRIN writes (11/14). But “[i]t is not binding and has no legal effect on national laws,” CBS News notes (11/14).
In the Huffington Post’s “World” blog, writer Marianne Schnall interviews Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “about why she considers family planning such a vital issue, how she views the role of philanthropy, her excitement over a new crowdfunding platform she helped launch called Catapult, and the many ways she says giving has enriched her life.” Schnall writes, “Controversy over reproductive rights has been at the forefront of our national conversation, but philanthropist Melinda Gates would like to take the controversy out and transform the narrative into a global one through education and advocacy.”
“In the build-up to the London Summit on Family Planning, there have been a lot of opinions expressed on blogs, in mainstream media coverage, in peer-reviewed journals, and even exchanges on the streets and at the water cooler,” Gary Darmstadt, head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Family Health Division, writes in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “And it has been great to see the conversations happening, even with the criticisms and resistance that we have sometimes felt from both conservative and liberal sides of the issue while preparing for the Summit,” he continues. He adds, “I look forward to the exciting times to come as the Summit has concluded, commitments have been made, and now we put the conversations that have been building up for the last few months into action to bring contraceptives to 120 million new users in the next eight years” (7/16).
Philippines Experiencing Increasing Number Of New HIV Cases; Leaders Say Country Should Reconsider Policies
“At a time when many countries are seeing their HIV infection rates level off or decline,” health officials in the Philippines “have seen an unexpected surge in cases in the past several years, with a more than five-fold increase between 2007 and 2011, with 2,349 new cases last year,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Southeast Asia Real Time” blog reports, noting, “The total number of cases as of April 2012 is 9,396, compared to just 3,061 in 2007.” The blog continues, “Doctors are still trying to determine the cause of the unexpected increase. Either way, domestic and international HIV experts have been warning for a while that the Philippines has all the necessary ingredients for an HIV epidemic,” including low condom use, communities where multiple sexual partners or sex workers are widespread, and workers who travel overseas, “often in jobs or in regions that have relatively high rates of infection.”
In this audio report in PRI’s “The World,” PRI anchor “Aaron Schachter talks to Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher on women’s rights in Africa for New York-based Human Rights Watch, about the terrible toll of teenage pregnancy and childbirth in Africa.” “Teenage pregnancy is an issue of pandemic proportions in Africa,” Odhiambo said, adding, “Teenage pregnancy is really an issue that has serious negative consequences for girls, for the development of communities and for the development of cultures.” She discussed progress toward reducing maternal deaths in various African countries and said that a number of factors contribute to maternal mortality, including a lack of sexual education for young girls, some traditional practices, such as early marriage, and the inadequate provision of health services (7/3).
Gates Foundation, U.K. Government Expected To Announce Additional Funding For Family Planning At London Summit
The U.K. Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with UNFPA and other partners on Wednesday, July 11, are hosting the London Summit on Family Planning, which aims “to raise $4 billion to expand access to contraception for 120 million women in the developing world by 2020,” according to Reuters. At the summit, the Gates Foundation “is set to unveil funding a sum in the hundreds of millions of dollars for a campaign to improve access to contraception in the developing world,” the news service notes (Wickham, 7/10). In addition, the U.K. government will “pledge to donate more than one billion pounds [$1.6 billion] to help family planning services in the developing world,” the Independent writes (Pickover, 7/11). The WHO “committed to fast-track its assessment of new and existing quality contraceptives so more women in low- and middle-income countries can obtain and use a broader range of safe and effective contraceptive products,” the agency reports in a media note (7/11).
On World Population Day, observed on Wednesday, July 11, the U.K. Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are co-hosting the London Summit on Family Planning. The following are summaries of opinion pieces and blog posts published ahead of the conference.
As part of its “Young people’s sexual health matters” series, the Guardian reports on a recent roundtable discussion hosted by the newspaper, in association with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), during which experts discussed key family planning issues ahead of the July 11 London Summit. “There was widespread agreement around the table that while increasing the physical supply of contraceptives to women in the developing world was crucial, it had to go hand-in-hand with better education about sex and relationships and a focus on rights,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Family planning — an unfortunate, old-fashioned term, some said — has long suffered from being associated by critics with population control” (Williams, 7/10).
In this global development podcast, the Guardian’s Annie Kelly is joined by Julia Bunting, head of the U.K. Department for International Development’s reproductive health team; Yasmin Ahmed, senior regional director for Asia at Marie Stopes International; Neil Datta, coordinator of the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development; and Gita Sen, professor at the Centre for Public Policy at the Indian Institute of Management, for a discussion about family planning ahead of the July 11 London Summit on Family Planning. According to the Guardian, they examine “how and why such a controversial issue has become a worldwide priority,” and ask, “[W]hat are the political and practical challenges and what is at stake in such debates?” The podcast also includes comments from “Sarah Boseley, the Guardian’s health editor, Carmen Barrosso, western hemisphere director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Ney Costa, from the Brazilian NGO Bemfam, and from readers who commented on our talk point,” the newspaper adds (Kelly, 7/2).