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:
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
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).
“A report [.pdf] on Afghanistan backed by UNICEF shows the country still has leaps and bounds to go in the areas of maternal and child health and education,” GlobalPost’s “Rights” blog reports. “Nearly 46 percent of women between ages 20 and 24 gave birth to a child before their eighteenth birthday in the Western regions of Afghanistan, and one in four women in the country overall delivered a live birth before reaching adulthood,” the report states, according to the blog. “‘Alarmingly, two percent have had a live birth before the age of 15,’ says the report,” the blog writes, adding, “These women were child brides, sold or given to husbands before reaching maturity. The practice is illegal in Afghanistan, but the tradition remains firmly implanted in certain rural tribal regions of the country to the detriment of both mothers and children.”
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Max Kamin-Cross, a self-proclaimed political junky and youth activist, writes that by improving access to contraceptives, “[w]e could lift millions of people of all races and both genders out of poverty throughout the world,” “we could significantly decrease the number of premature deaths, as well as the number of lives claimed by deadly infections like HIV,” and “the quality of life for millions more people would be drastically improved.” He provides statistics regarding access to contraception and continues, “This issue should not be controversial. The future of my generation truly may rely on the fate of contraceptive access” (8/22).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “expressed concern” over Uganda’s increasing number of HIV infections on a visit to the country last week, part of an 11-day trip to eight African nations, Uganda’s New Vision reports (Mukasa, 8/4). According to the Observer, Clinton “said while America recognizes the strides Uganda made in the 1990s when HIV prevalence dropped from 20 percent to seven percent, prevalence is now rising.” PEPFAR is the largest donor for HIV programs in the country, the newspaper notes, adding that “[t]he U.S. government recently committed $25 million to help Uganda eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission and … [m]ore than 300,000 Ugandans are receiving treatment through PEPFAR” (Mwesigye, 8/5). “The reversal is particularly disappointing to health experts given the time and attention that have been focused on AIDS here, and the billions of dollars spent,” the New York Times writes (Kron, 8/2). “I am hoping that we can work together to make prevention the focus again. We are going to review our strategy because we want to emphasize what will work,” Clinton said, according to the Observer (8/5).
“The United Nations has urged the Philippines to pass a bill that will allow the government to provide free contraceptives,” BBC News reports (8/5). “UNFPA country coordinator Ugochi Florence Daniels said the [reproductive health (RH)] bill is important for the Philippines to achieve its health-related targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” including maternal health, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, the Philippine Star writes (Crisostomo, 8/4). “The House of Representatives plans to decide Tuesday whether to end debate on the bill and put it to a vote,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (Gomez, 8/5).
IRIN Examines Conditional Cash Transfer Program Aimed At improving Maternal Health In The Philippines
“A nationwide conditional cash transfer program in the Philippines is slowly improving maternal health, but more is needed to reverse the climbing maternal mortality ratio, say women’s groups,” IRIN reports. “Known locally as ‘Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program’ (4Ps), five-year conditional cash transfers (CCTs) were first rolled out in 2007 as a pilot program to cut poverty,” the news service writes, adding, “Now, with a budget of $227 million, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) aims to make CCTs available to 5.2 million eligible households by 2015.”
African Leaders, International Community Must Act On Commitments Made At London Family Planning Summit
In this UNFPA opinion piece, Babatunde Osotimehin, U.N. under-secretary-general and UNFPA executive director, and Sharon Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, reflect on last month’s London Summit on Family Planning, where “leaders from 18 African countries made unprecedented commitments — financially and politically — to strengthen their family planning programs,” and highlight “[a] new study by the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA [that] shows there has been minimal progress in addressing the contraceptive needs of African women during the past four years.” They discuss uneven progress “in meeting the demand for contraceptive services” across the continent and write, “Now it is up to all of Africa’s leaders and the international community to do their part through a sustained commitment to improving the provision of contraceptive services” (8/7).
The New York Times’ “IHT Rendezvous” blog examines factors contributing to the more than 13 million abortions that occur in China every year, the highest number of any country worldwide. Though China’s so-called “one-child policy” is a contributing factor, “with women coerced into aborting ‘out of plan’ children by the threat of heavy fines or the loss of a job — or, in some cases, physically forced to abort,” some “scholars are now pointing to a new factor — under-25 women who, if they are unmarried, do not directly fall within the remit of the family planners,” the blog writes. A recent survey by China’s Research Institute of the National Population and Family Planning Commission estimates six million abortions occur annually among this group, the blog adds. This highlights other issues, the blog notes, including young people’s increased sexual freedoms and a culture and tradition that remains reluctant to discuss sex education, leaving young women without the knowledge of how to use contraception. “Yet gradually, people are beginning to talk more openly about what had long often been discussed only in absolute privacy,” the blog writes and provides some examples (Tatlow, 10/19).