U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday during travel to India met with Indian Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nazi Azad and “commend[ed] the country’s progress on health,” its “continued efforts towards achieving universal health coverage,” and its “commitment to the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health,” highlighting “its innovative programs in this area” and “the need to do more to promote the well-being of women and children,” the U.N. News Centre reports (4/26). Recognizing the “work still to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Ban said he would like to showcase India’s experiences and best practices in dealing with maternal and child health issues for others to follow,” according to the IANS/Daily News. Ban also “said [U.N.] member nations … are ready to help India in dealing with polio, malaria, tetanus, measles and HIV transmission-related mortality,” the news service notes (4/26).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, discusses including contraception on the global health agenda. “I have learned a lot from following the reaction to the talk I gave at TEDxChange two weeks ago,” she writes, adding, “Because I’m so passionate about the issue, I’m excited to see so many people talking about it online. The more people talk, I think, the more they’ll realize how much agreement there is around the basic argument that birth control saves lives and helps families build a better future.” She concludes, “I believe in giving women the methods they want to use so they can do what’s best for themselves and their families. … I hope we can agree that there really is no controversy around this idea” (4/26).
“Over-consumption in rich countries and rapid population growth in the poorest both need to be tackled to put society on a sustainable path,” according to a report by an expert group convened by the Royal Society, BBC News reports (Black, 4/25). The report “concludes that tackling global inequality is central to solving the problem of too many people exploiting dwindling natural resources,” the Independent writes (Connor, 4/26). “‘Population and consumption should no longer be regarded as separate issues,’ said Sir John Sulston, chair of the international working group that prepared the study,” according to the Financial Times (Cookson, 4/26). “Firm recommendations include giving all women access to family planning, moving beyond [gross domestic product (GDP)] as the yardstick of economic health and reducing food waste,” BBC notes.
Allowing Countries To Use PEPFAR Funding For Voluntary Contraception For Women Aligns With GHI’s ‘Women-Centered’ Approach
“PEPFAR has said it will use” nearly $1.5 billion in unspent aid “to invest in commodities (condoms, HIV rapid test kits and voluntary medical male circumcision kits), systems and institutions, and program strengthening,” Suzanne Ehlers, president of Population Action International, writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Here’s one idea that would offer a huge return on investment and save the lives of millions: voluntary contraception for women,” she continues, adding, “Voluntary contraception has been called ‘the best kept secret in HIV prevention’ and has a proven evidence base.”
In remarks to the U.N. Commission on Population and Development, which on Monday opened a week-long session in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “stressed the need to provide reproductive health care for young people, as well as give them access to the necessary information and the means to protect themselves from sexual abuse and violence,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Ban “underlined the importance of combating HIV/AIDS among youth, lowering the rates of teenage pregnancies, and protecting children from early marriage” the news service writes (4/23). “In order to empower the youth of the world, said Ban, the international community must ensure that they have jobs and resources, including reproductive health care,” Xinhua/Mysinchew.com notes (4/23).
In a Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin writes, “[I]t warms my heart to see that safe motherhood and women’s reproductive health are finally being recognized as important development issues,” but “millions of women in developing countries still lack even the most basic care during pregnancy,” leading to maternal death and injury and hundreds of millions of women lack access to family planning services, including modern contraceptives. “It is inexcusable that in the 21st century motherhood remains so dangerous for so many. It is not only morally wrong but also hampers economic development and the survival and well-being of families, communities and nations,” he writes.
“In the last of its series called ‘7 Billion: Conversations That Matter,’ Aspen Institute’s Global Health and Development [on Wednesday] hosted a panel of experts based in Africa and the United States on the interconnectedness of gender issues, family planning, population, and access to safe water,” GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports. According to the blog, “The point of the series was to ask questions about why it mattered that the world was passing the seven billion mark, and the questions [addressed] in Washington were appropriately big: Will water wars replace oil wars? What are the solutions to expand water and sanitation to the 2.5 billion people who don’t have it? And just how many people can the world support in an equitable fashion?” The blog recaps the discussion, providing quotes from several of the panelists, and writes, “The panelists kept coming back to the connections among access to water, family planning, and finding ways to use resources more efficiently” (Donnelly, 4/18).
The April issue of USAID’s “PRH Connect” e-newsletter features a round-up of top news articles; a partnership profile of the Alliance for Reproductive, Maternal and Newborn Health; notes from the field highlighting the DELIVER Project’s new photo blog, and links to various resources, publications and research. Lastly, USAID provides a link to an interactive map of high-impact practices in family planning (HIPs), requesting that readers add information regarding their own programs (April 2012).
Politico Pro examines the reaction to a speech delivered by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a TEDxChange conference in Berlin on April 5. “Gates’s speech was primarily focused on explaining why family planning is important in the developing world,” according to the news service. Gates said lack of access to modern contraceptives is “a life and death crisis” because with family planning, the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and children could be saved annually, the news service notes. “But multiple global health experts heard her comments as an intentional effort to push back on the politicization of birth control in the United States following the Obama administration’s new contraception coverage policy, which they fear could spill over into global health policy,” the news service writes. However, “Gates Foundation spokesman Chris Williams said Gates was simply reiterating her long-standing support for family planning and that viewing these remarks in light of domestic politics would be ‘using the wrong lens,'” the article notes.
“[I]n the developing world, an estimated 215 million women who want to delay or avoid their next pregnancy cannot exercise this right as they lack modern contraceptives, resulting in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and more than 100,000 maternal deaths,” UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin writes in this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” blog post. He says that “[t]he United Kingdom government of David Cameron and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced plans for a summit in London in July to raise funds for voluntary family planning” and notes that “UNFPA … fully supports and is a partner in this historic initiative on an often-overlooked human right.”