The Honourable Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole;
The Executive Director of the UNFPA, Dr Natalia Kanem;
The Executive Director, FP2020, Beth Schlachter;
President of Global Development at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Chris Elias;
Distinguished Colleagues and Partners;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is an honour and a privilege to welcome you all, especially our visitors, to Nigeria, on this occasion of the Family Planning 2020 Reference Group (FP2020 RG) meeting sessions in Nigeria. The FP2020 is a global movement that we all are very proud of – a catalyst of contributions, innovations, advocacy, policy action, equity, and wellbeing. We salute your individual and collective participation, for the ideals of improved human welfare and economic empowerment, through greater access to the high-quality contraceptive choices for the women and families who desire such, and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This year, the global health community lost my dear brother, Babatunde Osotimehin. Professor Osotimehin was an indefatigable ally in his role as Executive Director of UNFPA, especially in our shared goal of improving the conditions and outcomes of pregnant mothers, newborns, children, adolescents, and their communities. He also served tirelessly, of course, as a co-chair of the FP2020 Reference Group. Our thoughts and prayers have been with his family, friends and colleagues since we heard the terrible news in June. The new Executive Director of UNFPA and FP2020 Reference Group Co-Chair Dr. Natalia Kanem, is the right person to carry on the legacy of Professor Osotimehin and, alongside Dr. Chris Elias of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she is superbly placed to help realise our vision for a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
We are all united by the principle on which FP2020 was created in London, back in 2012 – that all women, no matter where they live, should have access to life-saving contraceptives. I founded the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) in 2004 to improve the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition (RMNCAH+N) indices of Nigeria, as well as much of sub-Saharan Africa; and to eliminate all forms of gender-based discrimination, neglect, abuse and violence. Despite being rich in human and natural resources, estimates from 2013 stated that Nigeria accounted for almost 13% of global maternal deaths, with close to 40,000 women dying due to pregnancy- and birth-related complications, every year. The evidence of the life-saving effects of family planning for mothers and children is irrefutable, including potentially averting 32% of all maternal deaths and nearly 10% of childhood deaths, if it were available to all those who wanted it.
If we are to achieve the FP2020 goal, and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights by 2030, as laid out in Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5, the work of the Performance Monitoring & Evidence Working Group will be absolutely crucial. I am a strong believer in promoting the use of data and investments in proven tools such as the WBFA client-held Personal Health Records (PHRs), a family planning health information delivery platform for women, as well as an accountability tool that can identify gaps in their reproductive care. The move towards the Expert Advisory Community expanding its role to become a two-way channel between the Secretariat and the family planning community of experts is welcome for the same reason – not only to better share information but also to hear back from those who have the evidence from the frontline. The emphasis on supporting and reinforcing country-level activities is one that the WBFA is fully in support of, so that we can play our part in increasing access to information, services and family planning supplies.
At the Family Planning Summit in London this July, the WBFA team and I were encouraged to learn the results of the scaled deployment and accessibility of the innovative Sayana Press Uniject injectable contraceptive device, for which I led the advocacy for, from its acceptance into Nigeria’s National Council on Health’s approval for the Task-Shifting and Task-Sharing Policy in 2012, to its scaled implementation as an affordable solution in diverse humanitarian settings from crisis, to development in the Ouagadogou Partnership, the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend Project, and within the developing strategy for Nigeria’s Lake Chad Basin.
I call on all global and national leaders to honor their FP2020 commitments to improve family planning funding and services; partner with donors and other NGOs to increase financial backing for family planning at all levels; and join with the relevant agencies to build the capacities of healthcare providers. Such leaders and other stakeholders (as in the private sector) must also strengthen primary health care facilities to provide family planning counselling and services for increased access and better coverage, while improving their forecasting capacities.