The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has pledged to fund $70 million in the next five-year (2012-16) plan to improve the country’s maternal and reproductive health and tackle violence against women.
UNFPA Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin said this at a press conference at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the city yesterday, ending his three-day visit to Bangladesh.
In the last five-year programme, the UNFPA funding was around $40 million, its officials said.
Terming violence against women a major concern, Babatunde said, “I appeal to all men to ‘Man Up’ (a global campaign) and help end violence against our sisters and daughters.”
During his stay, the UNFPA chief met the prime minister, foreign minister, health minister, and finance minister. He also visited several health facilities in Manikganj.
Babatunde appreciated Bangladesh’s performance in family planning, reduction in maternal and child mortality rates, and poverty and the commitment of the government to the sector.
In the last 35 years, fertility rates have dropped from 6.3 children per woman to about 2.5. Maternal mortality rate has reduced to 194 per lakh, which was 574 in 1990-95. Babatunde, however, said there is a huge scope for improvement.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s pledge to double by 2015 the percentage of births attended by skilled health workers by training 3,000 midwives is commendable, he said.
Stating that child marriage and early pregnancy are significant contributors to maternal mortality and urgent human rights concerns, he said implementing the legal age of marriage and providing adolescent-friendly reproductive health services is therefore of immediate need.
Referring to the UN Population Division that the world population will reach 7 billion on October 31, he said the occasion is an opportunity for the world to look at the common challenges that include poverty, inequality, lack of women’s rights, and threats to the environment.
The UNFPA would highlight the opportunity to accelerate progress by promoting education, universal access to maternal health and investment in young population, the health and population expert said.
“Healthy and educated people are human capital that helps nations fight poverty and promote development. Leaders should help them invest their energies in their nations’ progress,” he told reporters.
UNFPA Country Representative Arthur Erken, Economic Relations Division Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, and Health Secretary Humayun Kabir were present.
-With The Daily Star input