Women failed to benefit from progress made in sexual, reproductive health: report

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ISLAMABAD: As the world has made strides in sexual and reproductive health and rights over the last 30 years, the number of women who cannot benefit from this is still in millions.

These observations were made on Tuesday when UNFPA launched the annual report on the State of the World Population 2024 under the theme `Interwoven Lives, Threads of Hope: Ending Inequalities in sexual and reproductive health and rights`. It said the way forward was only through an inclusive future. The numbers and statistics delineated how discrimination continued to block broad gains in sexual and reproductive health for women and girls in many parts of the world.

The report sent a wake-up call for understanding that so many were at risk due to structural inequalities around the world with over half of all preventable maternal deaths estimated to occur in countries with humanitarian crises and conflicts that was nearly 500 deaths per day.

The year 2024, marked the thirtieth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo a landmark moment in which 179 governments committed to placing sexual and reproductive health and rights at the core of sustainable development. But progress was in danger, it was observed.

The report highlighted that millions of women and girls remained far behind, and progress was slowing or stalled on key measures. As many as 800 women died every day giving birth, unchanged since 2016, and nearly one in ten women could not make their own decisions about contraception. In Pakistan, less than one in three women could make decisions regarding sexual and reproductive health. Women with disabilities were up to 10 times more likely to experience gender-based violence than their peers without disabilities.

`Pakistan is a country with a predominantly young population. Every young person must be given the chance to achieve their potential. With over 50 percent of Pakistan’s population under the age of 19, the country will miss a great opportunity and face high risks if youth are not enabled to exercise their rights in good health, education, and well-being. Women and girls are another missed opportunity for Pakistan’s economy and social fabric. This fact speaks to the Endings of the SWOP report, which highlighted that due to structural inequalities, most women still do not have access to healthcare facilities,` said Dr Luay Shabaneh, UNFPA Representative at the media launch of there port in Pakistan.

Pockets of inequality persist: The evidence outlined in the report pointed to a troubling reality access to contraceptives, safe birth services, respectful maternity care, and other essential sexual and reproductive health services was unreachable for too many women and girls. The Universal Health Coverage (UHC) remained dishearteningly low at only 21 percent in Pakistan.

According to the report every 50 minutes a woman died due to pregnancy complications in Pakistan. Women in rural areas were less likely to get timely healthcare while sadly progress was slow in Pakistan. If this pace continued, Pakistan was likely to achieve zero maternal deaths after 122 years and fulfil the needs for family planning after 93 years.

Acknowledgement: Published in Dawn News on 8th May 2024.

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