The British Government has published a comprehensive strategy for improving reproductive, maternal and newborn health in the developing world. The strategy highlights the role of rapid population growth in undermining sustainable development and heightening vulnerability to climate change.
© 2009 Virginia Lamprecht, Courtesy of Photoshare
Choice for women: planned pregnancies, safe births and healthy newborns, is a Framework for Results published today by the Department for International Development (DFID). It sets out how the UK will help to save the lives of at least 50,000 women and 250,000 newborns and enable at least 10 million couples to access family planning over the next five years.
The reproductive health strategy was one of two Framework for Results published today by DIFD, the other focusing on Malaria.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said:
"Every day over two thousand people die from malaria and almost a thousand women die during pregnancy or childbirth. These deaths are all the more tragic because the vast majority could have been prevented.
"We will be relentless in driving down this terrible loss of life by hugely increasing our efforts, basing our actions on evidence; reaching more people with the right interventions; and by putting girls and women front and centre of our development work.
"Britain has a proud history of helping those in need. We are making our support go further by shifting the development agenda to one of accountability, impact and innovation – starting with malaria and maternal health."
The new reproductive health framework sets out strong commitments and ambitious targets.
Efforts to enable women to choose whether, when and how many children to have and to make sure pregnancy and childbirth are safe will be scaled up in more than 17 countries across the world accounting for around two thirds of all maternal deaths. To deliver this the framework sets out how the UK will prioritise:
The framework clearly sets out the ways that rapid population growth and unwanted fertility are undermining development progress, for example by impacting upon food security and putting pressure on services.
It also acknowledges that; “Reduced unwanted fertility and smaller families can reduce vulnerability to the effects of climate change and lessen pressure on scarce natural resources”.
PSN is delighted by the UK government’s strengthened commitment to advancing reproductive health and rights and that the framework highlights the negative impacts that high rates of population growth in developing countries are having upon efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
The recognition that high fertility rates in the global South are heightening vulnerability to the impacts of climate change is a welcome step towards promotion of increasing access to voluntary family planning programmes that respect and protect rights as a strategy for reducing climate change vulnerability.
Earlier this year PSN participated in the consultation that DFID held on its reproductive health strategy. Rapid population growth and climate change were a key focus of PSN’s contribution to the consultation. We are therefore happy to see attention to these key issues and urge DFID to promote the integration of population and health issues with other development agendas, as part of its commitments to increasing access to family planning.
The DFID Framework for Reproductive, Maternal and New Health is available on the DFID website.
Further information about PSN’s participation in the DFID Choice for Women consultation and a copy of our submission is available here.