Sexual and reproductive health in the Pacific
Cross-party call for investment in sexual and reproductive health in the Pacific
Today on World Population Day, the New Zealand Parliamentarians Group on Population and Development (NZPPD) calls on governments in the Pacific to urgently invest in sexual and reproductive health, particularly family planning, to improve the choices and opportunities of people in the Pacific and to advance sustainable development.
Many countries in the Pacific have poor sexual and reproductive health indicators, reflecting a lack of prioritisation and investment by governments. In a number of countries, such as Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, less than 30% of women of reproductive age use modern contraceptives. Teenage pregnancy rates are worryingly high, and gender-based violence rates in some countries are among the highest in the world, with some two-thirds of women reporting having experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner.
“These issues need to be addressed urgently if our Pacific neighbours are going to see progress in sustainable development. When people lack control over their reproductive health they lack control over their lives and future prospects,” says Dr. Paul Hutchison,
Recent cost-benefit research suggests that investing in family planning can save both lives and money. A recent report by Family Planning found that 18% of maternal deaths and 860 infant deaths could be averted and AUD18.8 million in health and education expenditure could be saved over 15 years by meeting unmet need for family planning in Kiribati.
Similarly, research by Family Planning in collaboration with the Burnet Institute found that preventing unintended pregnancies in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands could save $112 million in health and education costs and avert over 2,500 maternal and newborn deaths.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that investing in reproductive health is central to advancing many areas of society. When women and couples can plan their families, they tend to have smaller families, which allows them to invest more in the children they have,” says Dr. Hutchison.
The NZPPD is cross-party, with 44 members representing just shy of 40 percent of New Zealand MPs. The group provides a forum for parliamentarians to engage and act on international population and development issues, with a particular focus on the Pacific.
Family Planning houses the NZPPD Secretariat.