U.N. urges family planning ahead of World Population Day
Monday July 14th 2008
TORONTO - As thousands of groups in 140 countries prepare to mark World Population Day on Friday, the United Nations is calling for more action to promote women's rights and reduce the millions of deaths resulting from unwanted pregnancies.
"The importance of World Population Day this year is to advance women's empowerment and particularly to ensure universal access to reproductive health," Purnima Mane, deputy executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) told Reuters in an interview.
World Population Day, set by the United Nations Development Programme in 1989, will be marked by events from university campuses in Afghanistan and the streets of Nepal to mosques in Yemen and a congressional debate in Washington.
According to the UNFPA, contraception can prevent 2.7 million infant deaths a year, reduce poverty, slow population growth and ease the pressure on the environment.
One of the UNFPA's targets, for developing nations to meet their needs for contraceptives by 2015, was echoed by the World Bank on Thursday, which said 51 million unplanned pregnancies occur because women lack access to birth control.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for governments to honor their commitments to take action.
"The rate of death for women as they give birth remains the starkest indicator of the disparity between rich and poor," Ban said in a statement.
The UNFPA says 536,000 women die every year from pregnancy-related causes, 99 percent of them in developing countries. Another 10 million women suffer injury or disability such as infection, infertility, depression and other medical complications.