The Namibian (Windhoek)

19 November 2012

Namibia: Family Planning a Human Right, Says UNFPA Report

THE State of World Population 2012 report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says voluntary family planning in developing countries would reduce the costs of maternal and newborn healthcare by US$11,3 billion.

The report said ignoring the right to family planning leads to poverty, exclusion, poor health and gender inequality.

“Family planning delivers immeasurable rewards for women, families and communities around the world. By enabling individuals to choose the number and spacing of their children, family planning has allowed women, and their children, to live healthier, longer lives,” the UNFPA stated.

Launching the report in Windhoek on Friday, UNFPA country representative Fabian Byomuhangi said the report makes the case that voluntary family planning is a human right, which means that everyone who wants access thereto should have it.

“For just one dollar for every person on earth, everyone could realise this right,” Byomuhangi asserted.

He said this basic right remains out of reach for a staggering 222 million women in developing nations.

This is due to limited availability to services and the denial of sexual and reproductive healthcare to women.

He said the report shows that family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development.

“Many men say they want to have the means to help their wives or partners to have only the number of children they desire. For these women and men, the right to family planning cannot be realised without us. Governments and service providers must make sure that voluntary family planning reaches everyone who wants access to it, especially the poor,” Byomuhangi said.

The Permanent Secretary of the National Planning Commission, Leevi Hungamo, said the Namibian government has designed policies and programmes to address reproductive health and family planning services, and that despite some teething challenges, Namibia so far has achieved a “significant” number of targets set especially in the areas of the rates of contraceptive prevalence, total fertility, and population growth rate.

The 2006 Demographic and Health Survey shows that three percent of all women did not have access to family planning.

This inaccessibility has led to an unprecedented number of cases baby dumping.

Similarly, 15 percent of all girls below 20 years of age have given birth in Namibia this year.

“The question is, if mothers have to dump babies and young women have to give birth at such an early age and risk losing schooling and achieving their full potential, then why do women and men not access family planning services and claim this very important human right?” Hungamo asked.

Byomuhani said family planning and reproductive rights are central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

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