NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar — The Government of the Republic of Myanmar increased the budget for health and the Department of Health created a budget line for contraceptives to improve the health of mothers and children, and the United Kingdom and other donors will provide new funding to accelerate achievement of health MDGs, officials announced today at a press conference marking the London Summit on Family Planning.
The UK’s development agency–Department for International Development (DFID), Marie Stopes International and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, organized the press briefing to support the Family Planning Summit’s call for more concerted and collaborative efforts to satisfy unmet need for voluntary family planning services, prevent unintended pregnancies and abortion, and reduce maternal and infant mortality.
Currently some 215 million women in developing countries want to space their children and avoid unwanted pregnancies, but lack effective modern contraceptives. Yet funding for family planning has been curtailed, and many low income countries find themselves without adequate supplies of contraceptives.
“The UK is committed to improving maternal and child health globally and in Myanmar,” noted Paul Whittingham, DFID Director for Myanmar. “The British Prime Minister is today hosting the London Summit on Family Planning, where partners from across the world will come together to support the right of women and girls to decide, freely and for themselves, whether, when and how many children they have.”
The summit’s goal is two - fold: sustain family planning information and services for 260 million women; and meet the contraceptive needs of an additional 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020. This investment is expected to save lives of 200,000 women and girls and three million infants.
Mr. Whittingham said his Government intends to contribute £80 million over the next four years to the multi-donor Three MDG Fund for health. “Through this contribution, the UK will help avert 153,000 unwanted pregnancies and ensure that 57,500 women receive antenatal care visits,” he stated.
Family planning, or as termed in Myanmar by the Ministry of Health, birth-spacing, is about saving lives, and protecting mothers and children from death, ill health, disability and underdevelopment. As a key component of reproductive health, access to birth-spacing information, commodities and services is a fundamental right for every woman and community if they are to develop to their full potentials. “Marie Stopes International in Myanmar, with the leadership of the Department of Health, and together with local and international NGOs, serves to improve access to those needs for the communities in Myanmar—particularly the underserved.” noted Dr. Sid Naing, Director, Marie Stopes International in Myanmar.
Over the past 30 years, UNFPA has supported reproductive health programmes in Myanmar in partnership with the Ministry of Health and NGOs, and has been the main supplier of contraceptives to the country. Despite that support, Mr. Abdel-Ahad, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar noted, “Nearly one fourth of Myanmar married women of reproductive age would like to practise contraception but do not have the means to do so.” He said efforts by the Government and development partners to ensure the availability of modern contraceptives are critical to preventing unsafe abortion, the leading cause of maternal death and disability in the country.