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30.03.2004 Health

"Invest in Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare"- UNFPA .

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Bolgatanga, March 30, GNA- Global estimates indicate that one-third of the burden of ill health and early death among women of child-bearing age (15-45 years) result from sexual and reproductive health complications, especially those relating to pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. Besides, sexual and reproductive health problems account for close to one-fifth of the disease burden worldwide, thus representing about 250 million years of healthy, productive life lost to death or disability. These are contained in a new report jointly published by the US-based sexual and reproductive health think tank, the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The report "Adding it up: The Benefits of Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health Care", makes the case for increased funding for sexual and reproductive health services, particularly in poor countries. At the launch of the report in London recently, the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AGI, Dr. Sharon Camp noted that, "meeting sexual and reproductive health care needs" of families in poor countries can significantly contribute to economic prosperity. "Smaller families can lead to greater investments in children by both families and society", Dr. Camp said, pointing out that unplanned pregnancies and HIV/AIDS as well as other sexually transmitted infections have great consequences on the lives of men and women in their twenties when they are entering their most productive years.

In a statement, the Executive Director of UNFPA, Ms. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said the report brought to the fore the need for global consensus to include reproductive and sexual health programmes in the short list of priority interventions that need to be funded in order to achieve the United Nations' Millennium Development goals. "The argument for greater global investment in reproductive health services is obvious", she said, adding that though the international community has long recognized the importance of this, development budgets and foreign assistance are not forthcoming

"The bottom line, no matter how the analysts approach the issue", she noted, "is that money invested in sexual and reproductive health services will be repaid many times in direct savings on other health and social services". The UNFPA chief emphasized that such investments would also promote economic growth, poverty reduction and gender equality as well as fight the economic and social devastation caused by HIV/AIDS. She said the report was, therefore, timely since it would provide policy makers solid evidence to make hard decisions about allocating scarce resources.

Ms. Obaid made it clear that the report underscored the gross under-funding of reproductive and sexual health programmes and that investment in this sector have a tremendous impact on the health and well being of individuals, families as well as the economic development of nations. In 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo called for universal access to sexual and reproductive health care by 2015, as an indispensable part of the development agenda. This year, the world community is reviewing progress and ongoing obstacles in implementing the Cairo Programme of Action. The joint report "Adding it up: The Benefits of Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health Care", is intended to help realize the vision of Cairo as well as the Millennium Development goals, by impressing upon nations and donors to increase spending on reproductive health, which is not only an essential human right, but also a very good investment.