Keeping reproductive health supplies on an expanding agenda
30th October 2007
Last week, experts from around the globe travelled to Washington to discuss an issue critical to the health of millions around the world-access to reproductive health supplies, notably contraceptives and condoms. At the invitation of USAID, the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC) gathered to strategize how to build support for reproductive health supplies in a time when the development agenda of donors and country governments continues to expand.
The RHSC is a global partnership dedicated to making essential reproductive health supplies universally available. PAI, a founding member, currently chairs the Coalition´s Resource Mobilization and Awareness Working Group, which is dedicated to achieving political support and increased funding for reproductive health supplies at the global, regional and country levels. In addition, two other working groups focus on strengthening the logistics systems for delivery of reproductive health supplies and on addressing the diverse contributors to the market for reproductive health supplies, especially the private sector.
Last week´s RHSC meeting brought together dozens of representatives of the Coalition´s partners among bilateral and multilateral donor agencies, international institutions and non-governmental organizations. During the meeting, the Coalition welcomed a group of representatives from countries across the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, who shared their experiences with the transition toward national support for reproductive health supplies. Many of the LAC country representatives spoke of how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had "paved the road for contraceptive access" in their countries by helping create demand, disseminating information, providing technical assistance to governments and ensuring political commitment through strong advocacy.
Access to reproductive health supplies-including condoms and contraceptives-can alleviate unnecessary hardship among so many in the developing world. When men and women have access to modern contraceptives and condoms, they reduce their risk of HIV infection, unintended pregnancies, abortions and maternal mortality. The RHSC is helping to make these life-saving supplies more readily accessible. But the coalition cannot act alone. While USAID is the world´s largest bilateral donor of contraceptives and condoms, the support of the U.S. government for reproductive health and contraceptives has waned. Funding for family planning has declined by a staggering 41% (adjusted for inflation) since 1995. As Congress makes the final determinations for the FY2008 budget, including the annual appropriation for international family planning, it must support robust funding for the programs that save so many lives overseas.
Thanks to the work of partnerships such as the RHSC, we are reminded of the critical need for ongoing advocacy for the programs and supplies that make women´s lives safer and are a fundamental human right.
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October 30 2007, PAI