Financing and Aid Effectiveness, International Policies, Reproductive Health Supplies

The World Bank: Keep Reproductive Health Paramount

The World Bank has a long
history of supporting and strengthening reproductive health. This is why the
reproductive health community was shocked last week when allegations surfaced
that the World Bank’s Health, Nutrition and Population Strategy may
de-prioritize the importance of family planning and reproductive health services
to development progress. Certainly we heard more substantiated rumors that
references to family planning were expunged from key country development
strategies, Madagascar most notably. Because these initiatives are crucial to
attaining the Bank’s goal of eliminating global poverty, the World Bank must
maintain and reaffirm their commitment to reproductive health when they review
the Health, Nutrition and Population Strategy on April 24th.

In response to these concerns, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, stated,
“I want to make it clear personally. I think reproductive health is absolutely
crucial.” Family planning and reproductive health play a vital role in improving
the lives of women and children, reducing poverty and curbing the spread of
HIV/AIDS. In fact, the World Bank’s own World Development 2007
report which cites increased access to comprehensive sex education,
contraceptives and safe abortion as key factors to reduce poverty. Effective aid
and donor assistance must take as its starting point tried and true development
strategies, and one need look no further than the provision of family planning
services within the broad spectrum of reproductive health to find such a
strategy.

Here at PAI, we are heartened by Paul Wolfowitz’s statement, but we will also
watch the April 24th meeting closely to make sure that actions follow these
words. PAI urges the World Bank to keep reproductive health and family planning
in the priority position they should occupy within the Health, Nutrition and
Population Strategy. In addition, they must remain within country development
strategies, which are a product of national-level stakeholder processes,
particularly as the global donor community transitions from “donor-ship to
country ownership.” Decisions based on anything other than facts and a strong
evidence-base have no place in any global institution.

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