Roundups Sexual Health

Global Roundup: UN Reports on Global Maternal Health; Zambian Constitution Faces Conflicting Reproductive Health Rig

Avital Norman Nathman

Weekly global roundup: United Nations report on global maternal health yields mixed results; South Asian teen girls still marrying at high rates; Zambia sees conflict over various articles on reproductive rights in new constitution draft; Indonesia continues to struggle with reproductive and sexual health as they face growing rates of HIV infection.

India & Nigeria: Top Maternal Death Rate Worldwide

Last week’s release of a United Nations report on global maternal health yielded mixed results. An estimated 287,000 women worldwide died due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth in 2010, a decline of 47 percent from a decade ago. Despite the decline, the report noted that a woman dies of pregnancy-related complications every two minutes, and many of these deaths could be prevented with proven interventions. 

The greatest struggles with maternal mortality and morbidity remain in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In fact, while countries like China are showing a steady improvement in their rates (most likely attributed to lower birth rates overall due to the country’s one-child policy), India and Nigeria account for one-third of total maternal deaths world wide. The results of this study indicate that neither India or Nigeria will meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing maternal deaths by 75 percent from 1990 to 2015. Via New York Times & Outlook India.

South Asia: Adolescents Still Seeing High Rates of Child Marriage

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A new report released by the Journal of American Medical Association reveals that while child marriage is becoming less prevalent in South Asia for those under the age of 14, young girls 15 years of age and older are still getting married at the same rate as 20 years ago. Child marriage has declined dramatically in some countries: by 35 percent in India, 57 percent in Nepal, 45 percent in Bangladesh, and 61 percent in Pakistan for girls fourteen and under.  However, those same countries saw steady or, in some cases, increased rates for girls over the age of fifteen.Despite the fact that eighteen is the legal age for marriage in Bangladesh, the study found that the rate of child marriage of 16 year olds rose 36 percent in the country since 1991. 

According to the study’s co-author, Anita Raj:

“There needs to be a greater focus on prevention of marriage among later adolescents. If we cannot impact [the] reduction of marriage in this age group, we’ll continue to see inadequate change on reduction of girl child marriage as a whole.” 

Via International Business Times.

Zambia: Conflicting Reproductive Health Rights In New Draft Constitution

As Zambia works to draft up at new constitution, issues have arisen over conflicting language in separate articles that concern reproductive rights. Article 52 of the new draft constitution states that women have the right to reproductive health, including family planning, as well as access to related education and information. However, as Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia (PPAZ), Edford Mutuma noted, article 52 seems to be in conflict with article 28, which states that a person has the right to life, and that life begins at conception. 

Mutuma’s concern is that the articles may cause confusion for medical professionals and could possibly lead to implementing restrictions on women’s reproductive health services – including various forms of contraception. Not only could these conflicting articles lead to restrictions, but if the right to life is considered to begin at conception, then some reproductive health services and procedures may become unconstitutional in Zambia. Via All Africa.

Indonesia:Continued Poor Access to Reproductive & Sexual Health Services

According to a visiting UN official, poor access to reproductive and sexual health services in Indonesia is one of the biggest obstacles affecting the country’s success in achieving its targets for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The biggest challenge is the decentralization of the country, making it difficult to ensure that contraception and access to sexual health services are available in rural and poor areas spread out among over 17,000 islands. 

Lack of access to these services has had an impact on Indonesia’€™s family planning program, causing it to remain stagnant, with the more severe impact seen in the increasing rates of various STIs. Health Ministry data from Indonesia showed that 186,257 people were infected with HIV in 2009. Without accelerated preventive measures, the country will see that rate increase to over 500,000 infected people by 2014. However, the implementation of new programs, including a pilot program designed specifically to revitalize Indonesia’stagnant family planning programs is providing some hope for the country. Via The Jakarta Post.

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