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Speech by Ms. Mandeep K. O'Brien, UNFPA Representative a.i. in Viet Nam at the World Population Day 2012 Press Conference

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Date: Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Event: World Population Day 2012 Press Conference

Venue: Melia Hotel, 44B Ly Thuong Kiet street, Ha Noi

  • wpd 2012 05Ensuring universal access to reproductive health services is key to protecting the health of young people, women, mothers and their babies. © UNFPA Việt Nam\Hà Giang 2010\Đoàn Bảo ChâuDr Nguyen Viet Tien, Vice Minister of Health;
  • Dr Duong Quoc Trong, Director General of the General Office for Population and Family Planning;
  • Representatives of the Ministry of Health and government organizations, NGOs, international organizations, donor agencies, media and fellow UN colleagues;
  • Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

I am very honoured to be here representing the United Nations in Viet Nam at this press conference to commemorate the 2012 World Population Day. I would like to thank the General Office for Population and Family Planning (GOPFP) and the Ministry of Health for co-organizing this press conference today.

"Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services" is the theme for this year's World Population Day. It is a special call to re-energize political and financial commitments towards universal access to reproductive health, as well as to recognize those who provide information, services and supplies.

It is also special as tomorrow, 11 July, the London Summit on Family Planning will launch an unprecedented initiative to meet the need for modern family planning in developing countries. The initiative will be co-hosted by the UK Government's Department for International Development (DfID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The aim is to mobilize the political will and extra resources needed to give 120 million more women access to family planning by 2020. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is working together with other partners to call on governments around the world to commit more resources to the critical issue of voluntary family planning.

As you know, in 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), to which the Government of Viet Nam is a signatory, called for universal access to reproductive health care, including voluntary family planning, assisted childbirth and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. It affirmed the right of all individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, timing and spacing of children, the right to information and services in order to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. Indeed, on the occasion of this year's WPD, the UN Secretary General has urged that "We must mainstream reproductive health and rights into all development and poverty reduction plans. Investing in universal access to reproductive health is a crucial investment in healthy societies and a more sustainable future".

Distinguished guests,

Globally, ensuring access to voluntary family planning can reduce maternal deaths by a third and child deaths by 20 percent. It can reduce poverty, slow population growth and ease the pressure on the environment. According to a recent report on "Costs and Benefits of Investing in Contraceptive Services in the Developing World" by the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA, women in developing countries continue to die because they lack access to contraceptives. Each pregnancy increases a woman's chance of dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth. Maternal deaths are particularly high for young and poor women, those who have least access to contraceptive services.

The report shows that providing the current level of contraceptive care in the developing world costs $4 billion per year BUT it saves us $5.6 billion in costs of maternal and newborn health services. The report also points out that fully meeting all needs for modern contraceptive methods would cost $8.1 billion per year and this would lead us to an even bigger saving of $11.3 billion.

We know that most maternal and neonatal deaths can be prevented through universal access to reproductive health care services. For this to happen, health systems need to be strengthened to improve access to family planning; we must also invest in health workers with midwifery skills, and ensure access to emergency obstetric care when complications arise. These measures, if implemented comprehensively in Viet Nam, would not only save many lives, but would also improve the nation's economic and social productivity. This is a highly cost-effective public health strategy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Data from the Ministry of Health and other population-based surveys indicates that Viet Nam has made very impressive progress towards achieving the MDGs and has been successful in meeting most of them. In the area of reproductive health and family planning in particular, Viet Nam has made substantial progress, integrating family planning into the general health service, while further strengthening safe motherhood and newborn health services. However, certain population groups, such as adolescents, young and unmarried people, migrants and ethnic minority people, have limited access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. As a result, a significant number of pregnancies are unexpected, especially among the young and unmarried.

Maternal deaths still occur in mountainous and hard-to-reach areas and sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), continue to be a challenge, indicating that more prevention efforts are needed.

Sexual and reproductive health norms and behaviours are changing rapidly among young people in Viet Nam, and one third of young people still face barriers when trying to access reproductive health information or the services they deserve. Denying adolescents and young people their right to sexual and reproductive health care perpetuates the vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion that deprives them of the chance to fully develop their capacity to be healthy and productive members of society. With one third of its population young, Viet Nam has a unique demographic window open NOW and investing in young people's health will contribute to the country's continued socio-economic growth and sustainable development. As the UNFPA Executive Director recently remarked, "We cannot promote sustainable development without promoting the health - especially reproductive health - and rights of women and girls, as well as young people".

Distinguished guests,

The United Nations Country Team, including UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, UNAIDS, among others, stands ready to support Viet Nam in creating an evidence-based and supportive policy environment, designed to promote universal access to a core package of sexual and reproductive health services in every commune and district of the country, well backed by a reproductive health commodity security system. Indeed, the Government of Viet Nam-United Nations One Plan (2012-2016), approved earlier this year by the Prime Minister, reflects strong commitment and results to achieve this objective. We are also very pleased that the Ministry of Health will soon organize a national consultation to review the progress of Viet Nam on the health related MDGs, including MDG 5, which covers target 5b) on achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

Today, on the occasion of World Population Day 2012, it is our great privilege to join with so many strong national and international partners in our collaborative efforts to draw the most vulnerable populations out of the fringes and into a prosperous and healthy Vietnamese society. We urge the media to widely disseminate the key messages of the WPD theme on promoting universal access to reproductive health services, particularly for the vulnerable, disadvantaged and hard-to-reach populations. Reproductive health is an indispensable part of the poverty reduction and sustainable development agenda. Let us join hands in continuing our efforts to make every pregnancy wanted, every childbirth safe and every young person's potential fulfilled.

Thank you very much for your attention and participation.

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