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UNFPA pledges more support to enhancing safe motherhood, reproductive health services

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Bishnu Nepal, KATHMANDU: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director, Dr Natalia Kanem, has praised Nepal for its performance in the field of safe motherhood and reproductive health, family planning and women empowerment.
Dr Kanem, who is presently here on a two-day first official visit to Nepal was speaking at a press meet at the Pulchowk-based UNFPA Office.
“I believe we have a lot to learn from Nepal – what has been achieved in improving the lives of people in a relatively short period of time, despite formidable challenges, and the very strong commitment to accelerate progress on all fronts including in protecting the reproductive rights of women and girls, as articulated in the Constitution of Nepal and the Right to Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Act which was passed last year as a fundamental human right,” she said.
It may be noted that the Constitution has guaranteed every citizen’s right to free basic health services from the State, promising that no one shall be deprived of emergency health services. According to the constitution, every person shall have the right to get information about his or her medical treatment and every citizen shall have equal access to health services.
Similarly, the Article 38(2) has guaranteed that every woman shall have the right to safe motherhood and reproductive health.
In line with the above mentioned constitutional provisions, the government last year had issued the ‘ Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Rights Act-2075 BS’. The Act for the first time has established the right to safe motherhood and reproductive right as fundamental rights.
On the occasion, Dr Kanem announced the additional assistance on behalf of the UNFPA in Nepal’s efforts for safe motherhood and reproductive health, for the promotion of family planning and in the elimination of violence against women in the days ahead, but did not reveal the amount to be increased.
These goals include reducing preventable maternal deaths, addressing unmet need for family planning services, ensuring girls’ rights to education and health, eliminating child marriage and other harmful practices, and ending gender-based violence.
Nepal has been getting continuous financial and technical support from the UNFPA since 1971 specifically in the areas of safe motherhood, sexual and reproductive health, family planning and empowerment of women and girls and these issues are at the core of UNFPA’s mandate and central to achieving the vision of the ICPD Programme of Action, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.
The UNFPA had ensured optimum humanitarian support to women and adolescents affected by the 2015 April earthquake and last year’s floods in the Tarai-Madhesh and this move was highly praised by the international community.
Dr Kanem went on to say that this year was truly special for UNFPA as it was celebrating its 50th anniversary and it was really a proud moment for it as it recognized the gains made over the last five decades in improving the lives and well-being of individuals and couples around the world.
“We are also marking the 25th anniversary of International Conference on Population and Development – ICPD – and its landmark Programme of Action. The ICPD Programme of Action was unanimously adopted in Cairo in 1994 by 179 member states including Nepal, and it transformed the discourse on sustainable development with a vision and values that anticipated the vision and values of the SDGs,” the UNFPA Executive Director added.
According to her, the ICPD Programme of Action boldly asserts that with development, including access to education and health care, and specifically, universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, individuals and couples can choose the timing, spacing, and number of children best for them; women and girls will be empowered; and all of society will benefit.
What she said that this was the vision they had for 2030 and beyond – but to realize this vision, our efforts must to be accelerated and our partnerships must to be strengthened to meet the commitments made, she asserted. “Despite significant gains this past quarter-century, for far too many women and girls around the world including in Nepal, the promise of Cairo has yet to be fulfilled.”
These issues are at the core of UNFPA’s mandate and central to achieving the vision of the ICPD Programme of Action, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.
The UNFPA Executive Director assured that these issues and more would be on the agenda of the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 next month, which is being co-convened by the governments of Kenya and Denmark, together with UNFPA. At the Summit, governments, civil society, the private sector, community leaders, international institutions and others will make concrete commitments to achieve the goals set out in the ICPD Programme of Action. These goals include reducing preventable maternal deaths, addressing unmet need for family planning services, ensuring girls’ rights to education and health, eliminating child marriage and other harmful practices, and ending gender-based violence.
“Fifty years on, UNFPA stands at critical juncture – looking to the future while upholding our vital mandate, especially at a time of rising conservatism and pushback on rights and choices globally. We stand unwavering in our commitment to the reproductive rights and choices of every woman and girl, every young person, indeed everyone everywhere. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the governments and our partners and the communities we serve, proud of the progress we have made together and determined to deliver fully on the promise of the ICPD and the SDGs”.
She took time to share that her first to Nepal had been a truly inspiring one, adding that she regretted that she did not have the time to across country to meet the women and girls who were the direct beneficiaries of UNFPA support programmes support. She promised that she would be back in the near future.”
“It was my honour to meet with senior government officials including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health, among other dignitaries and key stakeholders and partners during this trip,” she said, expressing her belief that Nepal could and would play an instrumental role at the Nairobi Summit and beyond, as a champion of reproductive rights, by sharing its many achievements and its vision for 2030, and delivering a strong commitment statement to the global community.
In her reply to a query from media persons whether it was possible to meet these goals, she was confident that failure was not possible and these goals were achievable in solidarity with the government, aid agencies and civil society.
The UNFPA Executive Director on Monday had a bilateral meeting with Minister for Women, Children and Senior Citizen Thamamaya Thapa.
Despite the remarkable reduction in poverty (from 42% in 1995 to 22% in 2015), decline in maternal and newborn mortality, and increased primary school enrolment (to 96%), with significant improvements in gender parity, there is unfinished business in relation to the ICPD mandate.
According to the 2016 Demographic Health Survey, maternal mortality remains high at 239 per 100,000 live births – this is the second highest rate in the region after Afghanistan.
Unmet need for family planning is high at almost 24% and contraceptive prevalence has stagnated at 43% for modern methods since the 2011.One-third of women aged 15-49 years in Nepal still do not make their own decisions regarding contraceptive choice. An estimated 28% of women and girls 15 years and above are likely to experience physical or sexual violence in Nepal and harmful practices such as child marriage – although slowly declining -remains at a national average of 40 per cent, which is one of highest in the world. RSS

Published Date: Monday, October 21st, 2019 | 07:53 AM

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