Over 200m women have no access to contraceptives

United Nations says we must bridge gap between demand and supply for reproductive health care.


Musab Memon July 11, 2012

KARACHI: On the occasion of World Population Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has highlighted the major challenges facing the world and plans to overcome them.

More than 200 million women and adolescent girls in the world have no access to contraceptives and only one in three rural women in developing countries receives adequate care during pregnancy, he said.

“The world’s population has more than tripled since the UN was created in 1945, and keeps growing. With more than 7 billion people now inhabiting the planet, we face ever greater demands on shared resources and significant challenges to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals,” he said in his message released on Tuesday.

According to him, multiple crises – food, fuel and financial – have caused significant suffering and served as a wake-up call about the need to pay far more attention to the building blocks of sustainable development.

With teenage pregnancies still commonplace in most parts of the world, Ban said that most of them are driven by poverty and a lack of education; and voluntary family planning programmes are “starved for resources almost everywhere”.

According to UN statistics, every day, some 800 women die in pregnancy or childbirth from complications that are often preventable. And for every woman who dies, around 20 more suffer debilitating childbirth injuries.

Pregnancy and childbirth-related complications are the major cause of death among girls 10 to 19 years old in most developing countries, while the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections are among young people aged 15 to 24, according to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin.

“Giving birth is typically the most joyful moment in a woman’s life. Yet, this very process takes the life of so many women worldwide,” he said in a press release issued on Monday.

A UN official told The Express Tribune that an estimated 2.7 million third-trimester stillbirths occur every year. “Countdown countries accounted for 93% of stillbirths in the 193 countries in 2009, with rates ranging from five per 1,000 total births in Mexico to 47 in Pakistan and a median of 23.”

According to the latest UN estimates, the world still needs to meet the demand of the 222 million women who want to delay or avoid pregnancy but have no access to modern contraceptives — this would help prevent 21 million unplanned births and prevent 79,000 maternal deaths and 1.1 million infant deaths.

The UN secretary-general said: “We can – and must – do better. On this World Population Day, I call for urgent concerted action by Member States to bridge the gap between demand and supply for reproductive health care. Reproductive health and rights are integral to sustainable development and poverty reduction.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2012.

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