July 11th, 2007 05:12 EST
UN officials urge male involvement in maternal health to save women’s lives
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) marked World Population Day today by calling for greater participation by men in maternal health to reduce the number of women who die each day in childbirth and to ensure safe motherhood.
Mr. Ban and UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid seized the occasion of the Day – whose theme this year is “men as partners for maternal health” – to highlight the role of men in supporting women’s rights, including their right to sexual and reproductive health.
Today, more than half a million women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth, 99 per cent of them in developing countries, Mr. Ban noted in his message marking the Day. Many more suffer serious complications that can have a severe impact on the quality of life for women and their families.
“As partners for maternal health, men can save lives,” he stated. “The support of an informed husband improves pregnancy and childbirth outcomes and can mean the difference between life and death in cases of complications, when women need immediate medical care.”
He called on men to become “partners and agents for change,” supporting human rights and safe motherhood in every way possible.
In her message for the Day, Ms. Obaid emphasized that “experience shows that male involvement can make a substantial difference when it comes to preserving the health and lives of women and children.”
Men, she said, make most of the decisions within the family and in government, where they preside over policy and programmes that directly affect women and girls.
“Today, too many women die from easily preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Every minute, another woman loses her life,” said Ms. Obaid. “Let us go forward with the message: No woman should die giving life. Let us do all we can to promote the right of every woman to enjoy a life of health, dignity and equal opportunity.”
Observed annually on 11 July, World Population Day seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, particularly in the context of overall development. The Day is marked around the world with rallies, exhibitions and public awareness campaigns highlighting its theme.