Statement by Dr Sharman Stone, Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls: 2017 Family Planning Summit

When she needs it most: delivering family planning in humanitarian contexts

Speech

Speaker: Dr Sharman Stone, Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls

London

11 July 2017

As Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls, with a particular focus on the Indo-Pacific, I welcome the opportunity to address the Summit and would like to congratulate the organisers for their efforts galvanising support for expanded access to family planning.

Today, on World Population Day and five years on from the inaugural Summit, there has never been more a more important time to show leadership and accelerate our efforts.

This Spotlight Session highlights the importance and the scale of need for family planning in humanitarian settings.

Since 2007, Australia has played a leading role in championing the provision of sexual and reproductive health services in crises.

Today, more people are displaced than at any time since the Second World War and 60 percent of preventable maternal deaths are occurring in humanitarian and fragile settings.

Yet in crises, sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, remains under-recognised and under-funded.

In February this year, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, announced an additional A$9.5 million for the Sexual and Reproductive Health Program in Crisis and Post Crisis Settings (known as 'SPRINT'), bringing our total commitment to over A$26 million.

This is complemented by Australia's funding to UNFPA to preposition sexual and reproductive health supplies in a number of Asia-Pacific countries for use in crises.

SPRINT provides access to safe birthing, family planning services, HIV prevention and treatment, protection against sexual violence and assistance to survivors of rape and violence during humanitarian emergencies.

Since 2007, SPRINT has responded to 77 humanitarian crises, reaching close to 1 million people. For example, following Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji last year, SPRINT-supported medical missions to 37 villages and settlements provided SRH services, including family planning, to 2,201 women of reproductive age.

Australia is continuing its long-standing support for sexual and reproductive health in a number of protracted crises globally. 

Australian support of A$2.5 million to UNFPA is providing life-saving access to sexual and reproductive health services for crisis-affected people in Myanmar, in addition to recent commitments of over A$4 million to UNFPA's humanitarian work in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines.

Not only does quick, equitable and sustainable scaling up of sexual and reproductive health services during humanitarian settings save lives; it empowers women, revitalises the health system, and expedites the recovery of an affected economy following a disaster.

We urge other donor and government commitments to support this underfunded sector.

The effectiveness of delivering family planning in crises depends on the strength of underlying systems.

Our Pacific island neighbours face particular challenges in providing access to family planning.

Small, highly dispersed populations, poor transport links and high costs have contributed to low – and in some cases declining – contraceptive prevalence rates, and growing levels of adolescent pregnancies in eight of the 14 pacific island countries.

At the same time, around 50 percent of the population are youth and adolescents.  There are few actors, and very scarce resources in the region to address growing needs.

Australia is working with UNFPA to expand access to sexual and reproductive health services in the Pacific through a new A$30 million program over the next four years.

This builds on a A$3 million program funded by Australia so that UNFPA can develop innovative approaches to accelerate access to, and demand for contraceptives in the Pacific that commenced in June.

Together, UNFPA and Australia will work with our Pacific partners to reduce the unmet need for family planning towards zero by 2030.

Australia is continuing our support for UNFPA Supplies through a further contribution of A$3.5 million, in addition to the A$2.5 million provided in 2016.

UNFPA Supplies is a vital mechanism providing essential drugs that save the lives of thousands of women and babies in developing countries each year.

I thank Secretary Patel, Melinda Gates and our UNFPA colleagues for their work in hosting this conference.

I also pay tribute to Dr Babatunde Osotimehin and his leadership within UNFPA. 

We are saddened by the loss of a dynamic and passionate advocate for sexual and reproductive health, and that he could not be here with us today, but I am pleased Australia is able to play a part in continuing on this important work.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 12 July 2017