Mr. Tewodros Melesse, Director General of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) visited Nepal during 25-29 May
2017. Mr. Tewodros Melesse is a renowned speaker on family planning and a strong advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). He heads IPPF, a leading international non-government organisation which is both a service provider and an advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in more than 170 countries.
During his current maiden visit to Nepal, Mr. Tewodros Melesse, has met senior government officials and heads of various Civil Society Organisations, observed program of their Member Association - The Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN), a leading NGO devoted to SRHR in Nepal.
FPAN joined IPPF as a Member Association in 1969 and around the same time, a Government’s Maternal and Child Health Division was instituted and thus began FPAN’s journey to supplement and complement the National health and population programmes.
In the last 2 decades, FPAN’s advocacy efforts have resulted in a positive impact on SRHR policy of Nepal. Landmarks advocacy efforts are highlighted hereunder:
- As a member of Joint Advocacy Force ensured the inclusion of Reproductive Health and Rights in the new Constitution.
- Influenced the introduction of the National Youth Policy, National Population Policy and mobilised support for endorsing ‘Witchcraft Act’ and ‘Domestic Violence Control Act’.
- Nepal Government declared FPAN foundation day - 18th September as the National Family Planning Day in 2014.
- Honourable President of Nepal – Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, pledged to protect SRH rights of Youths in 2014.
- The Inclusion of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in the school curriculum in grade 6 and 7 in 2011.
- Legalisation of abortion in Nepal in 2002
With support from IPPF, the program of FPAN serve diverse target populations that include poor, marginalized, socially excluded and underserved (PMSEU) people, including sex workers, people living with HIV (PLHIV), the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community or third gender or sexual minorities, intravenous drug users (IDU), men who have sex with men (MSM), migrant workers, GBV survivors, trafficked returnees, disabled, urban slum dwellers and vulnerable young people in rural areas, women and young girls. FPAN serves these populations through an extensive network of 1,232 service points, in 37 districts comprising 118 static clinics, 139 mobile facilities, 85 associated clinics and over 600 community-based distributors/services.
Key areas of emphasis include adolescents' sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment, safe abortion, advocacy for SRHR, the prevention of GBV and support for its survivors, screening & treatment of cervical cancer and the promotion of access to sexual and reproductive health information and services to marginalized and under-served groups.
FPAN spearheads the SRHR scenario in Nepal by being a member of the Reproductive Health Coordination Committee of the Department of Health Services and sub-committees chaired by the Family Health Division (for e.g. the Safe Abortion Sub-Committee, Safe Motherhood Sub-Committee, etc.) and actively reviving the NGO Coordinating Council of 32 I/NGOs, as well as bilateral and multilateral UN agencies involved in SRHR.
In 2015-16, FPAN provided the much need lifesaving medical care including SRH services in Nepal immediately after the massive earthquake. Mobile medical camps were set up to address reproductive health needs and in three months that followed the earthquake 177 camps provided RH services to over 37,000 clients and Four Maternity Transit Homes provided SRH services to ANC and PNC clients.
This is the first ever visit by any Director General of IPPF to Nepal. During his visit, Mr. Melesse met with Hon'ble State Minister for Health Mr. Tara Man Gurung, senior officials of Ministry of Health, observed FPAN’s program at Panchkhall (Kavre district) where he met officials & beneficiaries, met youth & young people at Youth Centre in Bhaktapur, attended FPAN’s 39th Centre Council Meeting as Chief Guest in Kathmandu and met senior officials of FPAN. On the occasion of Mr. Melesse's visit, FPAN organized a press meet where he responded to the varied queries raised by media persons. Likewise, News24 TV, a national television channel broadcasted an exclusive television interview with Mr. Melesse.
Mr. Melesse said IPPF faces challenges globally including the recent decision by the US Government to withdraw funding from the United Nations Population Fund, which is a long-standing partner of IPPF and the re-enactment of the Global Gag Rule. This rule would impact many organization’s including IPPF which globally stands to loose US million over the next couple of years andit will have consequences for women and girls. Overall, it will impact program funding for contraception, maternal health as well as programmes to counter gender-based violence. In Nepal USAID has committed and continues to provide support to FPAN to reach out to more vulnerable and marginalised people with SRH services in 22 districts and I hope USAID will continue their support.
Mr. Melesse added that IPPF has launched a global campaign – I-Decide, earlier this month to increase support for Family Planning services that are accessible to women and girls everywhere. He said that Women and young girls have a human right to make their own choices about whether, when, and how many children they have. Unintended pregnancies can affect a range of other rights like ending a girl’s education, contributing to child marriage, resulting in health complications, or putting a woman’s life at risk. The global data reveals that
- An estimated 225 million women in developing countries would like to prevent or delay pregnancy but are not using contraception primarily due to limited access to contraception.
- Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for adolescents ages 15 to 19 globally.
- More than 800 women and girls die globally from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day, including unsafe abortions.
Unmet need for family planning is also generally higher among women in the poorest households, those with less education and those living in rural areas. The broad focus of the global family planning agenda is to increase the overall percentage of women using contraception.
Mr. Melesse concluded by saying that as a Federation of Member Associations in 170 countries IPPF cannot - and will not - deny life-saving services to the world’s poorest, wherever they are and for as long as they need it?