UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11, 2011 (IPS) – U.N. members and all development actors should take urgent action and show stronger political will to make a final push to achieve universal access to reproductive health, empower women and reduce poverty, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the U.N. Population Fund, (UNFPA) said Monday.
One of the most urgent actions they should take is close the $24-billion gap in funding to implement the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), said Dr. Osotimehin, making his first address to the Commission on Population and Development, in his capacity as UNFPA Executive Director. The funds would be invested to meet the needs of today’s 1.8 billion young people and 1.8 billion women of childbearing age.

“We need to keep pushing to make universal access to reproductive health a reality,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “Investing in the health and rights of women and young people is not an expenditure; it is an investment in our future”.

This was underlined in a recent report of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which states that family planning and demographic change alone cut poverty by one seventh in developing nations between 1960 and 2000 and could produce another one-seventh drop by 2015, in world that will soon have seven billion people.

The Secretary-General also reported that, if existing unmet needs for modern contraceptives were satisfied, “nearly 100,000 maternal deaths could be averted” and “unintended pregnancies could be cut by 71 per cent.” Currently, 358,000 maternal deaths occur annually.

The UNFPA Executive Director sought urgent action because, “some 215 million women in developing countries, who want to plan and space their births, do not have access to modern contraception.” Each year, he added, “neglect of sexual and reproductive health results in an estimated 80 million unintended pregnancies; 22 million unsafe abortions; and 358,000 deaths from maternal causes—including 47,000 deaths from unsafe abortion.”

The current session of the Commission on Population and Development, which opened Monday , is scheduled to conclude on Friday, 15 April