12 December 2020. Today, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Africa Region joins the rest of the world in celebrating the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) day.
The goal of UHC is to ensure that all people have access to high-quality health services without suffering financial hardship. A critical step to achieving this goal is the full realization of people’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and more so, among women and girls. Owing to their unique needs and vulnerabilities, the success of UHC cannot be fully achieved until all women and girls can access the sexual reproductive health services they need.
Each day, more than 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. According to the World Health Organization, 94% of all maternal deaths occur in low and lower middle-income countries. 218 million women in these countries have an unmet need for modern contraception according to the Guttmacher Institute, which also states that 35 million women have abortions in unsafe conditions. A further 133 million do not receive the treatment they need for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis. Cervical cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer among women globally is also a great challenge, with nearly 90% of the 311,000 deaths worldwide in 2018 occurring in these countries.
These figures highlight the profound need to invest more in SRHR. Lack of high-quality sexual and reproductive health care undoubtedly puts women at risk for negative reproductive health outcomes. Weak health outcomes are strongly interrelated with gender inequalities, discrimination, violence and lack of SRHR information and services. It is therefore paramount that SRHR is integrated into UHC to protect gains and accelerate progress towards various goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The integration of SRHR into UHC requires addressing the multiple legal and sociocultural barriers that limit access to services and prevent women and girls from fulfilling their right to health.
While governments are responsible for determining their own path towards UHC, this must be done in an accordance with agreed human rights treaties and commitments, including respecting and promoting SRHR.
IPPF Africa Region is committed to addressing the challenges that impede the achievement of UHC, with particular focus on those pertaining to SRHR. On this day, we implore all African governments, donors and partners to call for greater investment in SRHR, and ensure that a comprehensive package of SRHR interventions is a fundamental part of national UHC policies, strategies and programmes.
Maryanne Wanyama, Communications Officer, IPPFARO, Nairobi (Kenya) - Email: [email protected]