Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Stop impunity, UN tells Africa,Read more....

Stop impunity, UN tells Africa 
 The head of the UN Population Fund, Babatunde Osotimehin. Courtesy 
 
The United Nations has said governments must stamp out impunity of people marrying off children in disregard of existing legislation outlawing the practice.
The head of the UN Population Fund, Babatunde Osotimehin said in Addis Ababa, on Tuesday that child marriages and teenage pregnancies in Africa have reached “epidemic levels.”  He said that it is crippling economies because of the unplanned for rapid population explosion and the ill health of both the child mothers and their children, even their deaths.
The call on governments to deal with perpetrators of child marriages was made at the opening of the Third International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) which is being hosted by Ethiopia, one of the countries applauded for its measures to improve maternal health and increase access to family planning services.
The conference whose central theme is the expansion of family planning access for young people has drawn 3500 participants who include global leaders and advocates in health, science, education, politics and environment from 120 countries.
Ugandan health and planning Ministers as well as the Nabagereka of Buganda Sylvia Naginda are attending the conference at the African union Conference Centre in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.
At least 350 of the Participants are youth whose concerns are the heart of the conference attended. It is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Johns Hopkins University and the Ethiopian Government.
Babatunde said that laws are in place but perpetrators of child marriages continue unabated. In Uganda recently Doctors complained that the vice in the country with the highest number of victims, is fuelled by society’s sugar coating it as marriage.
They said that terming it marriage is an attempt at sanitizing it yet it hurting the health sector as well as the lives of children.
Babatunde noted that Africa has seven of the fastest growing global economies but this growth is from extractive industry and not the human resources development.
He said that Youth must be deliberately developed by instituting policies that ensure that their potential is not diverted by early marriages or pregnancies have better health and education and by dedicating resources and time in it.
For example, he said, governments must invest in skills development to make the youth competitive and that this will be achieved if the youth are able to make the right choices.
He pointed out that the most vulnerable children are the 10-14 age group, usually forced into marriage or impregnated and they fizzle out, falling through the societal cracks.
He pointed out that 7.2 million underage girls get pregnant globally every year, 200,000 of whom are impregnated daily. “This needs to stop, Babatunde said,” Governments should invest in girls, their education, health as well as sexual and reproductive health.
Babatunde urged governments to intensify activities to ensure increased family planning services access even if there are only 700 days remaining to the time set for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He said though it seems a short time, intensified action could make a big difference.
Ethiopia was chosen to host the conference because of its achievements in the area of reproductive health, through deliberate policies which made reproductive health a joint venture between communities and the government.
The country has increased the usage of family planning services by the population through boosting its health manpower by supplementing it with lay Health extension workers (HEWs) who serve the village and teams of volunteering women called the “Women Health Development Armies (WHDAs).”
The WDAs are responsible for grass root mobilization communities and dispelling cultural attitudes and myths to encourage women seek family planning services from the HEWs.
As a result the numbers of women with access to family planning between 2005 and 2011 doubled and, according to the Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, the country is targeting another 11.2million women by 2020.
This access reduced unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal and child mortality.
Hailemariam said that the country aims at raising at least 3 million volunteer WHDAs to try to reach a big number of women who need the services.
He asked the countries that made commitments in London for family planning to honour them because “Family planning is a development issue”.