Enabling families reach full potential | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Enabling families reach full potential

From (L) Dr. Sanjeewa Godakanda, Beth Schlacter, Ritsu Nacken and Dr. Janaki Vidanapathirana
From (L) Dr. Sanjeewa Godakanda, Beth Schlacter, Ritsu Nacken and Dr. Janaki Vidanapathirana

Executive Director FP 2020, Beth Schlacter at a media briefing, urged the need to ensure that all pregnancies are planned. She said, “Family planning saves lives. In 2018, as a result of modern contraceptive use, in 69 FP2020 focused countries, 119 million unintended pregnancies were prevented, 20 million unsafe abortions were averted, and 137 thousand maternal deaths were prevented”.

The Ministry of Health’s Dr. Sanjeewa Godakanda said,“Sri Lanka has made significant strides in providing family planning services over the years and has remarkable indicators in comparison with other countries in the region. However, a stagnation of performance is observed recently, which may have an adverse impact not only on the health status, but on overall social well being as well. Hence, there is a need to reach those furthest behind and provide women and adolescents with accurate information on sexual and reproductive health”.

Despite, Sri Lanka’s significant achievements, the Demographic and Health Survey (2016) highlights that 35% of married women in Sri Lanka do not use contraception and the unmet need for family planning is at 7.3%. The adolescent fertility rate is at 30 per 1000, which has been stagnant over the past few decades. Teenage pregnancies is 4.6%, with sub-national disparities of 5-8%.

As a result, it is estimated that 650 unsafe abortions take place daily in Sri Lanka, with no recent evidence of a suggestive decline, and 80% are estimated to be accessed by married women above the age of 30. The 2015 National Guidelines on Post-abortion Care highlights that unsafe abortions make up 10-13% of maternal deaths in Sri Lanka, making it the second most common cause of maternal mortality in the country. Despite legal restrictions, unsafe abortions continue to risk the lives of many women and girls.

Prevention is key to reducing unsafe abortions. Women who want to avoid pregnancy should have access to safe and effective family planning methods. This means that they have the power to make decisions about their own bodies and the knowledge and access to quality sexual and reproductive health services and supplies to manage their fertility. This point was highlighted by President, College of Community Physicians, Dr. Janaki Vidanapathirana.

Emphasising the importance of rights and choices, Representative, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Sri Lanka, Ritsu Nacken said, “Family planning is a human right. People have the right and the choice to freely decide if, when and how often to have children. Increasing access to modern contraceptives will prevent unplanned pregnancies and avert unsafe abortions. UNFPA strives to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, and we will continue to support the Ministry of Health to end unmet needs for family planning in Sri Lanka”.

UNFPA is a key partner in the FP2020 global partnership to empower women and girls by investing in rights-based family planning, and works with the Government of Sri Lanka to strengthen the capacity of health care providers to deliver quality family planning services, and in conducting research on subfertility towards developing a national subfertility package. UNFPA also helps increase the capacity of pre-and-in service teachers to deliver comprehensive sexuality education in schools.