AKU's nursing faculty visit a community health centre in Tanzania to advise young mothers about taking care of the health of their children.
A global commission of public health experts has called on governments and civil society to address deep-rooted inequities in sexual and reproductive health, in a major report published in The Lancet.
The Guttmacher-Lancet commission, a collaboration of 16 experts, stated that developing countries that invested just US$9 per person per year could make significant progress in meeting the need for modern contraception, safe abortion, and maternal and newborn health care. These benefits pay dividends over many years and make it easier to achieve other sustainable development goals related to poverty, education and gender equality, according to the report.
One of the members of the commission, Professor Marleen Temmerman, chair of obstetrics and gyanaecology at Aga Khan University and director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, East Africa, highlights that an unwillingness to openly address issues related to sexuality in communities and countries around the world undermined efforts to achieve health, equitable development and human rights for all people.
"Sexual and reproductive health and rights are fundamental to people’s health and survival, to gender equality and to the well-being of humanity. "Prof Marleen Temmerman, Director, Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health- East Africa
“Our commission offers a path forward to tackle these issues comprehensively. It encourages health ministries and service providers to consider the points of entry for health care and how best to integrate sexual and reproductive health interventions into other health care services, with the goal of bundling services to avoid missed opportunities,” said Professor Marleen.
The report was launched in Johannesburg at an event featuring Justice Edwin Cameron from the Constitutional Court of South Africa; Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet; and Julitta Onabanjo, Director for East and Southern Africa of the United Nations Population Fund.
“Gaps in sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide take an enormous toll on individuals, communities and economies. We must not continue to tolerate this problem,” said Dr Alex Ezeh, commission co-chair and former executive director of the African Population and Health Research Center. “It’s time to eliminate these inequities with a comprehensive approach that doesn’t overlook critical components like access to safe and legal abortion, prevention of reproductive cancers, or treatment for infertility.”
“For too long the world has accepted these stark realities as inevitable. Our report shows how they can be overcome, laying out a roadmap that countries can use to put essential services and interventions in place,” said Ann M Starrs, commission co-chair and president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. “We have the means and the knowledge to achieve universal sexual and reproductive health and rights. Meaningful progress is possible, it is affordable and it is vital.”
The commission stresses that improving health depends not only on implementing effective programs, but also on advancing rights—including those frequently neglected in global discussions, such as the right to freely choose one’s sexual partners and the right to safe and legal abortion care. Commissioners call on countries to tackle restrictive social norms, laws and policies, and to hold governments accountable to their commitments.
The commission also underscores the importance of gathering more evidence on the sexual and reproductive health needs of distinct populations that are often marginalized and vulnerable, including adolescents, people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, displaced people and refugees, and people living with disabilities.
The report is accompanied by two commentaries welcoming this new agenda for sexual and reproductive health and rights—a joint comment from two Ministers of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole of Nigeria and Dr Alejandro Gaviria Uribe of Colombia, as well as a joint comment from the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, Dr Natalia Kane.