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World Should Contribute $23B To Increase Women’s Access To Contraception, UNFPA Says

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Tuesday “appealed for the world to contribute more to improve women’s health and access to contraception,” Agence France-Presse reports. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, director of UNFPA, said it would cost $23 billion per year, which is an amount equal to “less than 10 days of the world’s military spending,” to prevent “women from having unintended pregnancies and dying in childbirth.” She was speaking at the start of a global forum on sexual and reproductive health, which assesses progress towards the goal of reducing the 500,000 women that die annually in pregnancy or childbirth.

Since 1994, when UNFPA started tracking its progress, “there have been successes, everything is not gloomy and dark,” according to Obaid, who said that a larger number of women now use contraception. Still, about 200 million women do not have access to birth control, which results in 76 million unwanted births a year.

Obaid also “welcomed the United States’ sexual health policy U-turn since President Barack Obama came to power,” AFP writes, adding that former President George W. Bush cut UNFPA financing for seven years. The U.S. is expected to give $50 million to UNFPA this year. “We’re sure happy that the U.S. will come back as an active member in support of the UNFPA,” said Obaid (9/2).  

Online NewsHour Examines Death During Childbirth In Tanzania

In related news, the Online NewsHour writes, “According to the most recent maternal mortality data collected by the Tanzanian government, 578 women died in 2004 per every 100,000 live births, and that rate has increased since 1999,” adding that WHO data “paints an even bleaker picture, listing the Tanzania maternal mortality rate for 2005 at 950 deaths for every 100,000 live births. In comparison, the United States had 11 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in 2005.” According to the Web site, hemorrhaging before and after birth is the leading cause of maternal death in Tanzania, and infection and high blood pressure also cause many maternal fatalities.

David Mwakyusa, Tanzania’s health minister, said the situation – which amounts 8,100 to 9,000 deaths per year – is “unacceptable.” To improve the problem, a planned 10 year overhaul of Tanzania’s health system aims to place a health officer and dispensary in each village, and to upgrade some dispensaries. “The country is also working to train more health professionals to ease the dire nursing and doctor shortage in the country,” writes the Online NewsHour. The article also examines why the maternal mortality rate is high and gives information about health workers (9/2).