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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Report on the 57th session of the WHA
ISSUE 27 - 10 June 2004
The 57th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA), held on 17-23 May 2004 in Geneva, Switzerland, adopted a resolution endorsing the World Health Organization's (WHO) first Reproductive Health Strategy. Also adopted at the meeting was a resolution on family and health in the context of the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family (IYF).
World Health Assembly Adopts Reproductive Health Strategy
The new WHO Reproductive Health Strategy identifies five priority aspects of reproductive and sexual health: improving antenatal, delivery, postpartum and newborn care; providing high-quality services for family planning, including infertility services; eliminating unsafe abortion; combating sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, reproductive tract infections, cervical cancer and other gynaecological morbidities; and promoting sexual health.
"Unsafe sex is one of the biggest risks to our health today, largely as a result of acquiring sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV/AIDS. Reproductive and sexual health touches the lives of everyone, everywhere," Joy Phumaphi, Assistant Director-General of Family and Community Health at WHO was quoted as saying. "It is fundamental to the social and economic development of communities, economies and nations," she added.
According to WHO, reproductive and sexual ill-health accounts for 20 percent of the global burden of ill health for women and 14 percent for men. Each year, some eight million of the estimated 210 million women who become pregnant suffer life-threatening complications related to pregnancy, many experiencing long-term morbidities and disabilities. In 2000, an estimated 529,000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth from largely preventable causes.
The new strategy comes as a response to a 55th session WHA resolution requesting WHO to develop a strategy for accelerating progress towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other international goals and targets relating to improving reproductive health, notably those from the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994 and its five-year follow-up (ICPD+5).
During the 57th session, many delegations took the floor to express support for the Strategy Paper and the ICPD Programme of Action and their importance for eradicating poverty and achieving development goals. These included Ireland, on behalf of the EU, Benin, speaking on behalf of Africa, Pakistan, Venezuela, India, Jamaica, on behalf of the Caribbean Community, Ghana, Thailand, Mexico, Eritrea, Colombia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Vietnam, Malawi, Maldives, Bangladesh, Kenya, Germany, Chile, Japan, China, Moldova and Indonesia.
The United States, in a long statement, questioned the evidence or data to support the assertions in the Strategy Paper. It said the international community has never agreed to reproductive and /or sexual rights as human rights. It also stressed that the numerous references in the strategy to reproductive health and sexual health services could not be interpreted as promoting abortion services or the use of abortifacients.
Moreover, the U.S. delegation said it was troubled by the significant focus on unsafe abortions, which gave the impression that abortions could be safe. The Strategy paper, in its view, also gave inadequate recognition to the rights and responsibilities of parents, legal guardians and other caregivers. It disassociated itself from the consensus on the resolution after its adoption, both in Committee A and in the Assembly.
Resolution on Family and Health
The resolution on family and health acknowledged that active participation of families and communities in promoting and protecting their own health has proved to be effective, and that families and communities who are thus empowered show an increased awareness and a higher demand for good quality health services.
It called for a reevaluation of the traditional approaches to guiding models of care and its content, because health institutions and professionals have adopted the individual as the focus for health service delivery, and as a consequence, the needs of the family as a whole are not being addressed properly.
During the deliberations on the resolution, a number of amendments were made to the draft text, including the need to pay attention to the care and support issues related to the health of family members, including men and the elderly; the role of schools in educating children, especially the girl-child; the broadening of domestic violence to include violence in all its forms; the addition of family members with disability and older persons to those at risk of violence in the family setting; and supporting member states to establish or strengthen programmes on parenting through relevant research and international forums for sharing country experiences.
The resolution also called on WHO to work closely with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNICEF and UNFPA on issues related to the family and its members by sharing experiences and findings.
To view the WHO press release on the proceedings of the 57th session of the World Health Assembly, visit: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/releases/2004/wha2/en/
To receive a copy of the Reproductive health: draft strategy to accelerate progress towards the attainment of international development goals and targets, please send an email to email@example.com.
To see the Resolution on reproductive health draft strategy to accelerate progress towards the attainment of international development goals and targets, visit: http://www.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA57/A57_R12-en.pdf
To see the Resolution on family and health in the context of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, visit: http://www.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA57/A57_R11-en.pdf
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as secretariat for the International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (November 2002, Ottawa, Canada). These dispatches are intended to highlight important developments taking place around the world so that parliamentarians can be kept informed of and learn from the successes, setbacks and challenges encountered by their fellow parliamentarians in other countries and regions in their efforts to promote the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (September 1994, Cairo, Egypt). It should be noted that UNFPA does not necessarily endorse all of the policies described in this newsletter.
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