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UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, will continue to assist the Philippine government in ensuring that the poor are able to access reproductive health services through the provision of quality reproductive health services to allow them to make informed choices.
In a series of meetings with stakeholders in the reproductive health advocacy, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin underscored the importance of engaging partners so that resources are put to maximum use in addressing inequities and ensuring an inclusive growth framework.
Dr. Osotimehin also committed to continue providing humanitarian assistance, disaster being a key concern in the Philippines, which is one of the most-disaster prone countries in the world. He mentioned the conduct of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil next month and the efforts of the UN and development agencies to push for the environment agenda in the post-2015 MDG scenario.
“In the context of disaster risk reduction, we need to ensure that we provide services to women and young girls and reduce the effect of and prevent disasters,” he said.
In his meeting with the UNFPA head, President Aquino discussed his plans for the Philippines’ development on the basis of reproductive health and rights and the ability of people to make choices for themselves. Dr. Osotimehin said he was pleased to learn that a good number of Filipino women are now able to deliver in facilities, emergency obstetric care is improving and more funds are being allocated for family planning commodities.
He committed to the President UNFPA's technical assistance in terms of data analysis for policy formulation that would ensure greater coverage for Filipinos to access life-saving services and information.
During an interaction with youth leaders, Dr. Osotimehin batted for stronger focus on prevention of teenage pregnancies through adolescent-friendly reproductive health services and sexuality education. Recent reports revealed an increasing trend in teenage pregnancy in the Philippines which stands at 53 per 1,000 births.
In Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao, Dr. Osotimehin was able to interact with young people and mothers who are still living in a tent city five months after the disaster. In a meeting with the UN Mindanao Humanitarian Team and local government officials, Dr. Osotimehin vowed to continue supporting the reproductive health programmes of the city government even beyond the humanitarian response.
He also acknowledged UNFPA’s collaboration with the Catholic Church in some areas of UNFPA’s work. “The business of UNFPA is to enrich the lives of people, to add value to them. We are glad to note that in many parts of the world, including the Philippines, the Catholic Church has found commonalities in what we do and we continue to work with them to ensure that we can provide safe spaces for women and young people around the world,” he said.
The UNFPA is working with the Catholic Church in Cagayan de Oro in providing for the basic needs of women of reproductive age who were affected by the massive flooding brought by tropical storm Washi last December. Specifically, the activities include the distribution of hygiene kits and the conduct of medical missions for pregnant and lactating women.
Dr. Osotimehin was in Manila May 17 to 19. Aside from the President, he also met with former President Fidel Ramos who is regarded as the grandfather of ICPD in the Philippines, ambassadors from UNFPA donor countries, youth leaders, government leaders, legislators and leaders from civil society organizations.
The visit also comes at a time when the UNFPA Philippines Country Office is celebrating 40 years of UNFPA programming in the country. The First Country Programme started in 1972 and UNFPA is now in its seventh cycle of assistance to the Philippine government.
“UNFPA is an organization unique in itself. It was started by a Filipino, a dedicated gentleman who believes in rights of women,” Dr. Osotimehin said. “Today, we have recommitted ourselves to providing assistance and working with governments around the world to ensure that the lives of women and young people are secured not only in terms of services and commodities for family planning but also in terms of protecting their rights and ensuring that we create policy atmosphere and programmes that would reach people in the most equitable fashion.”