The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog published several posts in response to the TEDxChange: “The Big Picture” presentation delivered by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, in Berlin on Thursday.
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
The government of Sweden on Monday announced “a regional strategy for regional efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and address sexual and reproductive health” in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a press release from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. “The strategy also contains guidelines detailing how Sweden will contribute to improving sexual and reproductive health and efforts to improve human rights for homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people” in the region, the press release states. The Swedish government is allocating SEK 700 million ($104 million) for 2012 to 2013 toward the strategy, according to the press release (4/2).
“If family planning services, including information about reproductive health, access to birth control, and health care, were available to all women, the deaths of 100,000 women during childbirth could be prevented every year,” Maeve Shearlaw, policy and advocacy coordinator for the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “In other words, access to family planning saves lives,” she writes, adding, “Clearly, more must be done to reach women in rural areas and to increase demand in places where women don’t even know about family planning methods. It is also important to focus on girls and young women, who are more at risk of losing their lives in childbirth — yet simultaneously much less able to reach family planning services” (4/2).
The Jakarta Globe examines maternal mortality in Indonesia, writing, “Indonesia may be progressing slowly and steadily toward fulfilling its targets under the Millennium Development Goals, but the issue of maternal health continues to present many challenges.” According to the newspaper, “Government statistics show that the maternal mortality rate [has] declined,” but “a report last week by health officials in Bali has highlighted a worrying reversal, with the provincial maternal mortality rate increasing from 58 per 100,000 in 2010 to 84 last year.”
Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes in an opinion piece in Nigeria’s Vanguard, “My top priority as a co-chair of the foundation I run with my husband is making sure that all families have access to safe and effective contraception tools that empower them to make a decision about what’s best for them and their family. And that means encouraging aid donors and governments here in Nigeria and across Africa to make family planning a priority.” Improved access to modern methods of contraception and child spacing would save millions of lives, “[b]ut family planning doesn’t just save lives; it also makes life better for families and communities, becoming a key driver of economic development,” Gates continues.
Bloomberg News examines family planning in the Philippines, where “[o]ne in five women of reproductive age … have an unmet family planning need, the U.N. Population Fund says, leading to unintended pregnancies and population growth twice the Asian average.” The article focuses on a reproductive health bill in the country’s congress that would allow for “free or subsidized contraception, especially for the poor.” The bill “has been re-filed and blocked in each three-year congressional term since it was introduced in legislature 14 years ago amid opposition from the Catholic Church,” according to Bloomberg. However, with support from President Benigno Aquino, the bill “may be put to a vote in congress in three months,” the news service notes (Khan/Aquino, 3/27).
“Africa has the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with 48 percent of all global maternal deaths occurring in this region,” Jotham Musinguzi, regional director of the Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office in Kampala, Uganda, writes in an Independent opinion piece. But “[i]f we provide girls, women and their partners with family planning information and services we can empower them to decide the number, timing and spacing of their children — and whether they want to become pregnant at all,” he states, adding, “Intended pregnancies are safer and healthier pregnancies.”
Political Instability, Humanitarian Crises Reversing Maternal Health Gains In Africa, Health Experts Warn
“Political instability, civil strife and humanitarian crises in Africa have over the past decades reversed countless maternal health development gains on the continent, health experts warn,” Inter Press Service reports. “‘African countries with good maternal health statistics are generally those that have long-term political stability. This shows that stability is a fundamental basis for development. If it doesn’t exist, other priorities overtake,’ Lucien Kouakou, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) in Africa, told IPS,” the news service writes.
U.S. Ambassador For Global Women’s Issues Speaks About GHI’s Support For Family Planning In CNN Interview
“[F]amily planning is one of the best public health interventions that can be made,” U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer said in an interview with Amar Bakshi, editor of CNN World’s “Global Public Square” (GPS) blog, adding, “It makes such a difference in a woman’s life for her to be able to have the wherewithal — the family planning contraceptives available so that she can decide the size and the spacing of her children.”
Inter Press Service explores how patriarchal tradition, cultural values, low government health spending, and a lack of access to supplies and education pose challenges to women who wish to obtain family planning services in Cote d’Ivoire. In the West African country, “family planning is widely regarded as a ‘women’s issue’ that husbands do not have to concern themselves with,” therefore, “very few men use the small number of public services on offer, while women continue to struggle to realize their sexual and reproductive rights,” the news service writes. The article discusses a clinic “run by the non-governmental health organization Ivorian Association for Family Well-Being (AIBEF),” which is the “one clinic that offers family planning services free of charge” in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital (Palitza, 3/15).