YOKOHAMA, Japan — Health improvements and a healthy workforce underpin social and economic growth. That was one of the messages of the Yokohama Declaration and Action Plan for 2013-2017, issued at the end of the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) held here last week.
Over 200 national and foreign dignitaries attended the symposium, including, heads of state and government, delegations from 51 African countries, and representatives from 35 partner countries and 74 international organisations.
Recognizing that, in spite of considerable progress, most African countries face challenges in achieving some of the health-related MDGs, the group agreed to support major African initiatives to advance maternal health, including the Campaign on the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) and the Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (the Maputo Plan of Action).
Speaking at a conference symposium on CARMMA and Family Planning 2020, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin called on the international community to "increase investment in maternal and newborn health" to prevent women from dying due to pregnancy-related causes in Africa.
Africa can reduce the level of maternal death by up to 30 per cent by simply fulfilling the unmet need for contraception, Dr. Osotimehin said, adding, however, that the direct funding and political support for family planning has fallen over the last 15 years.
"Family planning not only save lives but contributes to improved health, strengthens communities and stimulates economic growth," he said, and encouraged government and development partners to expand resourcs to family planning.
Another symposium panelist, President of Malawi Mrs. Joyce Banda, noted that family planning reduces health risks of women and sexually-active girls and gives them more control over their reproductive lives.
"With better health and greater control over their lives, women can take advantage of education, employment and civic opportunities," she said. "Families with fewer children are often able to send those children to better schools so girls get a chance to attain higher education, and as an outcome, the age of at first marriage is often later and their years of fertility reduced."
Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, talked about the contribution of family planning poverty alleviation and development.
"At the national level, rapid population growth resulting from high levels of unmet need for family planning often outstrips economic growth and undermines a country’s ability to offer adequate educational, health, and other social services to its people," she said.