KUALA LUMPUR - Women Deliver 2013 ended in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday with a pledge by participating government Ministers to ensure that sexual and reproductive health is central to the post-2015 development agenda.
Adopting a Call to Action at the end of a forum on “Meeting Our Commitments for Family Planning,” the Ministers said they would hold themselves accountable for achieving universal access to family planning, and would work to eliminate barriers to service delivery and commodities, especially for youth and vulnerable populations.
Within the framework of universal health coverage, the Ministers said they would also “ensure that health financing systems evolve to reduce financial barriers to accessing services and contraceptives among the most disadvantaged and poorest populations.”
Speaking at the ceremony, the Executive Director of UNFPA Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, thanked the Ministers for their commitment as reflected in the Call to Action.
“You have also committed to the deadline of 2016,” he said. “Let us go forth, ensuring that each country owns the process and that we can scale up the programs from what we have learned here.”
He reminded the Ministers that it is impossible to construct a development agenda without people, the most important of which are women and girls. “Let us protect them, their rights, providing services for them.”
Also commending the Ministers, Women Deliver President Jill Sheffield told them they were part of something remarkable, announcing that the week’s conference involved 2200 organizations, with over 4500 participants from 149 countries, and 411 mainstream journalists.
“This more than doubles what happened [at Women Deliver II] in 2010,” she said. “It is historic, but needs to be more than that. We are glad you gave the time to come here and talk and listen and learn and be determined to do some things differently when you go back.”
Acknowledging that a lot of progress has been made, she called on the Ministers to work harder to push the agenda, and challenged them to depart Kuala Lumpur inspired to act.
In a keynote address on Tuesday, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mr. Datuk Seri Najib Razak, pledged his renewed commitment to empower women in the country.
He highlighted the great progress Malaysia has made in maternal healthcare and services, with maternal mortality dropping to an all-time low of 29 per 100,000 in 2011.
Still, he said the country would go further.
“Our national, regional and global stability depends on it,” the Prime Minister stressed. “We know that investing in girls and women – in their education, health, safety, rights and financial independence – pays.
“When girls and women are educated, healthy and independent, the benefits extend beyond individual freedom to prosperity and achievement.”
During the conference, UNFPA supported Women Deliver by leading several events, including a Parliamentarians’ Forum, as well as a High-Level Panel on Family Planning.
UNFPA also announced two new initiatives aimed at increasing access to family planning and improving maternal health in some of the most-hard-to-reach areas of the world.
In the first, UNFPA teamed with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) on a project which addresses the high unmet need for family planning among some of the world’s most marginalized populations, particularly in post-conflict countries and those in transition. The initiative is expected to significantly boost investment in family planning services in 13 countries: Bolivia, Côte d'Ivoire, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Kenya, Liberia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pacific Islands, Pakistan and South Sudan.
In the other, the Fund is partnering with Intel and Jhpiego on the use of new online training modules for frontline maternal health workers in an effort that would address a critical knowledge gap in maternal health. The modules, which can be used remotely, instruct workers on how to treat dangerously high blood pressure, life-threatening post-birth bleeding and prolonged and obstructed labour.