Fertility and reproductive health at core of development


“At the MDG Summit last September, world leaders called for universal access to reproductive health by 2015. Their appeal reflects the lessons of history. Lower levels of fertility are associated with higher family incomes, increased well-being for women and children, and fewer maternal deaths”, stated Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General of DESA, at the opening of the 44th session of the Commission on Population and Development.

At this session, which is held in New York from 11 to 15 April under the theme “Fertility, reproductive health and development”, Mr. Sha also recognized that progress has been made within the field of reproductive health. But he also acknowledged remaining challenges.

He pointed to the fact that support for family planning has weakened, stressing that this is very short-sighted: “Family planning is a cost-effective investment. For every dollar spent on modern contraceptives, one dollar and thirty cents is saved in maternal and newborn care”, he said.

The new Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, was welcomed at the meeting and he presented harsh statistics of the situation in developing countries today: “Some 215 million women, who want to plan and space their births, do not have access to modern contraception”.

This neglect of sexual and reproductive rights results each year in 80 million unintended pregnancies; 22 million unsafe abortions; and 358,000 deaths from maternal causes. “My friends, we can no longer afford to shy away from these realities”, said Dr. Osotimehin. “Family planning as part of comprehensive health services saves lives, slows population growth, enhances women’s life options and reduces poverty”.

The gains of investing in universal reproductive health is also highlighted in the report of the UN Secretary-General entitled “Fertility, reproductive health and development”, introduced by Ms. Ann Biddlecom, Section Chief of DESA’s Population Division.

Ms. Hania Zlotnik, Director of DESA’s Population Division, also reassured: “Winning the struggle requires that we do good by doing right. We know how to do it; we just need to strengthen our efforts where they are still needed.”

For more information, see DESA News article “Fertility declines worldwide”

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