Southern Africa: Groundbreaking Regional Strategy On Sexual and Reproductive Health Gets Ministerial Approval for Southern Africa

Windhoek — The Southern African Development Community's ground-breaking and far-reaching Regional Strategy for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights 2019-2030, as well as a Score Card and indicators to measure progress, was approved here by the Ministers of Health and Minister responsible for HIV & AIDS.

The SADC Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Strategy provides guidelines to fast-track the achievement of a healthy sexual and reproductive life for the people in the region. It was approved at a Joint Ministerial Meeting held in Windhoek and attended by representatives from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Also given the ministerial green light was the SRHR Score Card, the first ever multi-sectoral score card to be adopted by a regional entity. This will measure progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) key SRHR targets.

"SADC leads the world on improving sexual and reproductive health"

Speaking on behalf of the United Nations, Dr. Catherine Sozi, Regional Director for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in East and Southern Africa (ESA), praised the SADC Ministers for their commitment to strengthening the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people in the region by adopting the strategy.

"Today, you have committed that the SADC will continue to lead the world on improving the sexual and reproductive health of its people," she said.

The adoption of the strategy and score card comes on the eve of the 25th Anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action in 2019, which is aimed at advancing people's well-being and ensuring that human rights are placed at the centre of global development.

SADC region making great progress in development

SADC Member States have made notable progress in implementing actions proposed in the ICPD Programme of Action, which have led to substantial development gains.

Life expectancy increased across the region from 52 years in 2007 to 60 years in 2016. Progress has been made on most sexual and reproductive health indicators. This includes declines in maternal mortality, infant mortality, unmet need for family planning and female genital mutilation, and increased access to education, particularly for girls, and reduced rates of new HIV infections and increased numbers of people on treatment.

"Despite these gains, we know that more must be done. We have to recommit ourselves to achieving the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have reaffirmed the ICPD agenda to leave no one behind," Dr. Sozi added.

The SADC's efforts to develop and adopt the SRHR Strategy and Score Card have been supported by UNAIDS, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with SheDecides, Southern African civil society organizations and youth-led organizations. The four UN agencies, through the 2gether 4 SRHR Programme, supported the following:

The convening of the Technical Committee that oversaw the development of the draft SRHR Strategy for the SADC;

The recruitment of a consultant who helped to develop the draft SRHR Strategy for the SADC Region (2019 - 2030) and Score Card.

The convening of the Technical Consultation consisting of representatives from the Ministries of Health, Education, Youth and Gender, and from civil society and youth-led organizations.

The 2gether 4 SRHR Programme is supported by the Government of Sweden (SIDA), which has invested $45 million in support from the United Nations to governments in the region to scale up the provision of quality integrated sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and sexual and gender-based violence services.

- Emma Mbekele

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