News Release

New Zealand Parliamentarians’ Group On Population And Development Wellington, New Zealand February 23, 2010

A new report on maternal health in the Pacific from the New Zealand Parliamentarians’ group on Population and Development (NZPPD) calls on the New Zealand, Australian and Pacific Island governments to take immediate action to improve the maternal health situation in the Pacific.

The report, Making Maternal Health Matter, is the result of an Open Hearing on Maternal Health in the Pacific held by NZPPD in September 2009, where individuals and organizations working within the field were able to voice their concerns to New Zealand parliamentarians’ about the challenges still facing maternal health in the region. Making Maternal Health Matter, brings together the key messages from the Open Hearing, with recommendations from NZPPD on where urgent action is needed.

While progress is being made in some Pacific Island countries, other countries still have high rates of maternal deaths. Five women a day die in the Pacific region due to pregnancy or childbirth related causes. The majority of these deaths are in Melanesia, and largely preventable.

"We know what is needed to prevent so many of these deaths. Access to family planning services and contraceptives, more midwives and better facilities to name a few. But it also requires the political willingness to prioritize and invest in this area" says Dr. Jackie Blue MP, NZPPD Chair.

Many women in the Pacific do not have access to family planning services, modern contraceptives or the necessary care during and after pregnancy and childbirth. Teenage pregnancy rates in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands are among the highest in the world.

The recommendations in Making Maternal Health Matter include calling on the New Zealand and Australian aid programmes to ring fence 15 percent of Official Development Assistance for sexual and reproductive health, with a proportion of that funding to be allocated specifically for family planning and care during and after pregnancy and childbirth.

"There are so many benefits to investing in maternal health and reproductive health in general. When women are able to choose when and how often they are pregnant, they are more likely to have smaller, healthier and wealthier families. Women have more time to get an education, to work, and can invest more in their children" says Jackie Edmond, Chief Executive of Family Planning International.

Making Maternal Health Matter was launched at the New Zealand Parliament on 23rd February. Dr. Sharon Camp, President and CEO of the U.S. based Guttmacher Institute, and Kathleen Gapirongo, President of the Solomon Islands Midwifery Society were invited to New Zealand to speak at the launch.

The NZPPD is a cross–party group with currently 44 members representing almost 40 percent of all New Zealand MPs. The group has provided a forum for New Zealand parliamentarians to engage and act on international population and development issues for eleven years. The NZPPD has a particular focus on the Pacific region, where the population and development challenges remain great. Family Planning International houses the NZPPD Secretariat.

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