By Christabel Addo/ Elizabeth Yaa Brobbey, GNA
Accra, July 11, GNA - Ghana on Thursday, joined other countries globally to observe the World Population Day (WPD), which focuses attention on both the urgency, and importance of global population issues and reproductive health.
The annual celebrations, which was instituted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1987, is seen as a powerful advocacy tool for accelerating education of the masses on global population trends particularly within the context of the Sustainable Development Agenda.
Mr Mohammed Nii Adjei Sowah, the Mayor of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, at a durbar in Accra said this year’s celebrations called for global attention to the unfinished business of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in Egypt.
He said 25 years have passed since the landmark conference where 179 governments recognized that reproductive health and gender equality were essential for achieving sustainable development, yet other population issues including access to sexual and reproductive health and gender equality remained a challenge.
The ICPD Programme of Action (POA) was a promise made to young people, with the intention of giving them hope that their rights, needs and demands would be met.
The global theme for the year’s celebration he said, was “International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) at 25: The unfinished Business,” while nationally the theme “Reproductive Health and Gender Equality for Sustainable Development,” was adopted to create awareness on the need to expand access to these rights.
Mr Sowah said although Ghana had achieved significant progress after the ICPD, maternal deaths were still high, there were still many women with unmet needs for family planning, while gender-based violence was still widespread.
“That is what we consider as the unfinished business of the ICPD and the reasons to accelerate the promise,” he explained.
He said to accelerate the promise, there was the need for family planning to take the centre stage in the national discourse, calling for universal access to services and supplies, just as was the case for immunization services, ensuring that commodities were covered under the National Health Insurance Scheme, while increasing government funding for contraceptives.
He further called on Parliament to pass the Affirmative Action Bill into law, to ensure gender equality and women empowerment, calling on men to treat women with respect and giving them space to participate in decision making starting from the household level, which should include decisions about childbearing.
Dr Leticia A. Appiah, the Executive Director of the National Population Council, thanked all stakeholders who have supported the course of achieving the ICPD POA over the years, and stressed that the ultimate results were achievable through sustained commitment and collaboration to holistically address the remaining gaps.
She made a comparison with the polio eradication drive, which was persistent and sustained by countries to achieve the present impact where currently only three countries made up of Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan were left globally to eradicate the disease, saying “population issues could also be controlled in the same manner”.
Mr Niyi Odjuolape, the UNFPA Country Representative, said his outfit, together with government of Kenya and Denmark, would be convening a high-level conference in Nairobi in November this year, to accelerate efforts to achieve the unmet goals of the ICPD.
He called for a stakeholder engagement to urgently discuss the issues of unfinished business and to create the awareness of the fact that opportunities for women and girls have changed since the ICPD and to highlight on the need to address the existing gaps to enhance access to reproductive health services especially for the youth.
Dr Gladys Norley Ashitey together with the other dignitaries launched two documents made up of: the Reviewed National Population Policy and the Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy.
There were also solidarity messages from partners including the Maries Stopes International, Parliamentary Caucus on Population and Development, the Ghana AIDS Commission, Christian Council of Ghana and the Muslim Family Counselling Services, who respectively pledged their commitments to addressing the unfinished business of the ICPD-POA.