- Undermining sexual and reproductive health services and rights will place more women, infants, children and adolescents at risk.
- Countless studies have shown that investing in family planning is one of the most cost-effective development interventions with both immediate savings and long-term benefits.
Next week, Nairobi plays host to global leaders, policymakers and influencers to mark the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) which, in 1994, established an ambitious programme of action to achieve comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.
The Nairobi summit, to be held from Tuesday to Thursday, takes place at a time of critical importance for sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Ideologically driven forces are seeking to roll back hard-won gains; to slash funding for essential services and to remove references to these services and rights from international agreements.
The summit must emphatically restate that sexual and reproductive health are matters of fundamental human rights — and they are critical for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health.
At a time when there is growing political momentum in countries to provide affordable, quality health for all — universal health coverage (UHC) — we must ensure that the full panoply of sexual and reproductive health interventions are included in national health plans, with the financial resources to back them up.
We also must direct urgent attention to the ways in which discrimination and stigma prevent the most marginalised groups — including adolescents, migrants, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, minorities and indigenous peoples, among others — from accessing sexual and reproductive health services.
It is fitting that ICPD+25 is being held in the part of the world most vulnerable to the negative effects of cuts to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for two-thirds of the annual maternal deaths (196,000). The rate of stillbirths, often seen as an indicator of the quality of care around the time of birth, is more than eight times that of high-income regions.
Undermining sexual and reproductive health services and rights will place more women, infants, children and adolescents at risk.
Rather than cut back on these, we need to accelerate global efforts to bring them to everyone.
By enshrining them into their national health plans, governments can accelerate progress towards UHC, establish accountability mechanisms for such progress and improve the health and lives of women, children and adolescents.
This is not only good public health; it makes economic sense as well.