Conference Raises €181 Million for Reproductive Health and Rights
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

A global conference on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) raised €181 million in funding pledges to help maintain family planning programmes in developing countries, through an initiative to respond to the US Government's "Global Gag Rule." The UN launched a network to improve quality of maternal, infant and child healthcare in nine African and Asian countries.

2 March 2017: A global conference on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) raised €181 million in funding pledges to help maintain family planning programmes in developing countries. Prior to the conference, the UN launched a network to improve quality of maternal, infant and child healthcare in some of the world’s poorest countries.

More than 40 countries, including Canada, Ethiopia, Japan, Kenya, Mozambique and Nepal, as well as NGO and business representatives, attended the ‘She Decides’ health conference, held in Brussels, Belgium, on 2 March 2017. The conference was initiated by the Government of the Netherlands and hosted by the Government of Belgium.

The Netherlands’ development minister, Lilianne Ploumen, launched the initiative in order to support women and girls at risk of losing access to sex education, birth control, obstetric care and safe abortion as a result of a US Government decree, known as the Global Gag Rule. The policy withdraws support from organizations that promote or provide abortion services as part of their family planning programmes, and could result in developing countries losing up to US$600 million a year for women’s and girls’ healthcare.

Belgium’s Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo highlighted that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be achieved without equality for women and girls. He emphasized the aim for “every pregnancy to be wanted and every delivery to be safe.” Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), expressed regret regarding the funding setback, but said the response to the ‘She Decides’ conference bodes well for the future.

Governments of nine countries in Africa and Asia have pledged to halve maternal and newborn deaths in health facilities by 2022.

On 15 February 2017, UN agencies launched a network for health services for women and children in nine countries: Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. The Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health seeks to improve care quality and respect for patients’ rights, using a web-based system to help health practitioners share ideas, information and experiences. Governments of the nine countries have pledged to halve maternal and newborn deaths in health facilities by 2022.

The World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners are supporting the nine-country network. They are promoting eight ‘Standards for improving quality of maternal and newborn care in health facilities,’ including access to clean water and equipment, and ensuring patients’ privacy and confidentiality of information. According to Anthony Costello, WHO, births in health facilities have increased in the past decade, resulting in a shift in attention from access to care facilities to the quality of care provided. He also highlighted the importance of the project for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets on maternal, infant and child mortality (targets 3.1 and 3.2).

More than 300,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth every year, and 2.7 million babies die in their first month after birth. [Netherlands Government Press Release] [UN Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC) Press Release] [UN Press Release on Health Network]

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