Access to family planning vital for development efforts in Timor-Leste – UN

10 July 2008 – Family planning, a human right that allows parents to make informed decisions about the size of their families and to determine the spacing of children, is vital to the overall development of Timor-Leste and to reducing poverty in the tiny nation, United Nations officials said today.

Timor-Leste, which the UN helped shepherd to independence in 2002, has the highest fertility rate in the world with an average of 7.8 children per woman.

Ensuring that all Timorese have access to family planning is a crucial part of development efforts, since it allows the Government to plan for health care, food supplies, education and infrastructure to support a growing population.

In addition, making informed decisions about when to have children, and how many, has a direct link to the health of mothers and children and impacts the quality of care parents can provide their children.

“Having access to the information, care and services of family planning is vital to improving maternal and child health, and helps to improve the quality of life for entire families and communities,” Hernando Agudelo of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) told a news conference in Dili today.

Speaking on the eve of World Population Day, observed annually on 11 July, Mr. Agudelo noted that the problem globally is that people most in need of access to family planning services do not have them.

“It is this information and service gap that we are trying to bridge in Timor-Leste through the health centres,” he said.

The family planning clinics in the country offer a range of services, including access to information, contraceptives and care by professional health workers.

Louis Gentile, Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Timor-Leste, added that family planning is also a human right.

“The right of parents to plan their families is derived from fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a right that must be protected by governments and civil society,” he stressed.

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