UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Director Ms. Lydia Zigomo has called for greater investment for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agenda ahead of the 20th International Inter-Ministerial Conference on South-South Cooperation in Population and Development.
Ms. Zigomo is in Zimbabwe ahead of this important conference that will take place in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe from 9-10 October 2023.
The Population and Development conference seeks to track progress of commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994. At this ICPD conference held almost 30 years ago, representatives from 179 governments and other stakeholders adopted a landmark and far-sighted plan to advance human well-being by placing the rights of individuals at the centre of the global development agenda. The ICPD Programme of Action emphasized the value of investing in women and girls and affirmed the principle of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.
The “Promise of Cairo” rested on a vision for achieving people-centred development worldwide through the provision of universal access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.
While in Zimbabwe, Ms Zigomo will also have an opportunity to meet with key partners and stakeholders to galvanise continued support for the ICPD agenda.
“As we approach the 30th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, we are very happy with the progress that has been made towards advancing this important agenda and value all the partnerships we have built over the years toward this,” said Ms. Lydia Zigomo.
“UNFPA remains very committed to accelerate progress toward the ICPD agenda, as we know there is still a lot of unfinished business. I commend the Government of Zimbabwe for its commitment to advancing the International Conference on Population and Development agenda by hosting this important conference.”
The unfinished business in the East and Southern Africa includes high maternal deaths, especially among adolescents. About 800 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, according to recent data. This is about one woman every two minutes. For every woman who dies, between 20 and 30 will experience injuries, infections or disabilities. Most of these deaths and injuries are entirely preventable.
High maternal deaths among adolescent girls is also an issue of concern. Early childbearing, high fertility rates and inadequate access to maternal health services are the main factors that contribute to the high number of maternal deaths among young women in Africa. Girls aged 15-19 years are twice as likely to die during childbirth as women 20 years and above.
Another issue of concern is that an estimated 49 million sexually active women in East and Southern Africa do not have access to modern contraception or family planning services, and more than half of these are young women. Consequently, adolescent pregnancy rates in the region are twice the global average, at 92 births per 1,000 girls (UNFPA, 2021).
In addition, the East and Southern Africa region, which accounts for less than 8 per cent of the world’s population, remains the epicentre of HIV, with 20.7 million people living with HIV. This number represents 55 per cent of the number of people living with HIV in the world.
Fifteen of the top 28 countries in the world in terms of HIV infection are found within the region. Of the 15 countries, eight—Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—have the highest prevalence rates in the world, ranging from 11 per cent to over 26 per cent among adults.
Another unfinished business is gender-based violence (GBV). The region has a high prevalence of GBV and harmful practices among adolescents and young women. Of girls aged 20 to 24 years, 31 per cent were married before the age of 18 (2020). Harmful practices, including female genital mutilation and child marriage, continue to persist in the region, with significant consequences for agency and bodily autonomy. In seven countries in the region, about 20 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 years reported that they had experienced sexual violence from an intimate partner.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNFPA – East and Southern Africa.