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Population day focusses on right to family planning

by Sunday Express
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Limpho Sello

THE United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has committed to supporting Lesotho in its endeavors to promote reproductive health commodity security and improve the quality of family planning services for adolescents and marginalised populations.

UNFPA country representative Nuzhat Ehsan said this at the recent commemoration of the World Population Day at Hloahloeng, in the Mohale’s Hoek district.

The commemorations were held under the theme: ‘Family Planning is a Human Right’.

Ms Ehsan said improving access to voluntary family planning is central to UNFPA’s mandate, as they aim to eliminate all unmet need for family planning by 2030.

Ms Ehsan said every individual has the right to decide the number and the spacing of their children.

“We advocate for the right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education and means to do so,” Ms Ehsan said.

“It should be noted that we are not dictating how many children people should have, but our view is that people should have a choice. Couples should be able to decide on the size of family they want and also when to have children.

“Our opinion, as articulated by our executive director, Natalia Kanem, is that when a woman can plan her family, she can plan her life. She can pursue more education, seek and keep better jobs and contribute more to her family, her nation and to global prosperity. As she becomes better-off financially, her children receive better education and the benefits carry over well into future generations.”

Ms Ehsan said they have learnt that in the area of Hloahloaeng, like in many other places in Lesotho, there is a high rate of teenage pregnancies, child marriage, school drop outs and myths surrounding family planning.

She said it is certain that if a 13 years old girl falls pregnant, this robs her of a chance to childhood therefore, family planning can play a major role in addressing these challenges.

“We also recognise that in Lesotho, the unmet need for family planning among married women is 18 percent. The percentage is higher within the 15 to 19 years category as it is 28,9 percent nationally.

“I therefore pledge the UNFPA’s commitment and support to the Lesotho in its endeavors to promote reproductive health commodity security and improve the quality of family planning services, particularly for adolescents and other marginalised populations in Lesotho.”

For his part, Minister of Development Planning Tlohelang Aumane said this year’s theme; “Family Planning is a Human Right,” comes after the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights, where family planning was for the first time globally affirmed to be a human right.

Mr Aumane said after the proclamation, numerous treaties, conventions and agreements relevant to reproductive health and rights have reaffirmed that family planning is indeed a human right.

He said it has become a concern for the world including Lesotho that lack of access to family planning services has led women use unhealthy procedures for birth control.

“Women use dangerous practices out of fear of falling pregnant and because of lack of information and education about family planning services. The unhealthy practices cause sickness and death.

“The country needs to invest a lot in Sexual Reproductive Health to improve the country’s economy and development,” Mr Aumane said.

He further said the commemorations came at the right time when the country is working to complete the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) II. He said the NSDP II will pave way and guide the government’s strategic plan as well as finding long term solutions to the challenges faced by the country.

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