The World Health Organization has committed itself to fast-track its assessment of new and existing quality contraceptives so more women in low- and middle-income countries can obtain and use a broader range of safe and effective contraceptive products.
The WHO made the commitment at the Family Planning Summit in London held this week (11 July 2012), which is also being attended by Zambia’s First Lady Dr Christine Kaseba.
According to Fadéla Chaib, WHO communications officer, other pledges made by WHO at the summit include support to countries to integrate family planning services into basic healthcare and a systematic examination of why so many women are still unable to obtain contraception when they need it.
Dr Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general, who chaired a panel at the summit on increasing access and expanding choice, said access to modern contraception is a fundamental right of every woman.
“Hand-in-hand with this right is a need to honour the dignity of women by giving them a range of family planning options and the freedom to make their own personal choice,” Dr Chan said.
According to WHO, the aim of the London summit was to “mobilise global policy, financing, commodity and service delivery commitments to support the rights of an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries to use contraceptive information, services and supplies, without coercion or discrimination, by 2020.”
The WHO states that an estimated 222 million women and girls in developing countries who do not want to get pregnant lack access to contraceptives, information, and services.
A statement by the WHO reads: “The need is greatest where maternal mortality rates are the highest. In many countries, more than 30 per cent of women who want to use contraception are unable to get it. WHO estimates that maternal deaths could be cut by a third if all women wishing to avoid future pregnancies had access to effective contraception. In particular unmarried, young, poor, migrant and rural women often have no access to family planning counselling and services.
“The WHO policy briefs launched today [Wednesday] focus on the most promising strategies to improve family planning care and strengthen sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries. They are based on recommendations made by a multidisciplinary group of experts convened by WHO to identify best ways to expand access to contraception.”