The World Health Organization (WHO) sponsored a news conference last week at the National Press Club to bring attention to the declining status of sexual and reproductive health in the global development agenda. A panel of health policy experts discussed the release of a series published by Lancet, a UK medical journal, that provides data on the lack of availability of and the decline of financial support for reproductive healthcare. The journal also raised concerns about the increased political interference and the reluctance of governments to tackle issues regarding poor reproductive healthcare in developing countries.
According to the panel, the reproductive community has lost support and has become further isolated because sexual and reproductive health remains a controversial issue. More and more, the already small amount of monetary support and aid is being allocated for more visible and less controversial issues like HIV/AIDS. According to Maurice Middleberg, vice president for public policy at the Global Health Council, the fact that “sexual and reproductive health has become a woman”s issue” further weakens support from the global community. Middleberg recommends cultivating allies and “building bridges” with other groups and recasting sexual and reproductive health so that it is seen as a “human issue.”
For the past five years, the United States has withheld money that Congress allocated for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). In September 2006, President Bush blocked $34 million from going to the UNFPA, which uses its funds to lower infant and maternal mortality, increase access to contraceptive services, and decrease the incidence of obstetric fistula. The US has withheld a total of $161 million of pledge funds.