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Family Planning, key to reduce maternal deaths and boost economy

Although family planning information and services are widely available in the country, at least 20 per cent of married and unmarried women who are fecund and sexually active are not using any method of contraception, and report not wanting any more children or wanting to delay the birth of their next child, according to the Lao Social Indicator Survey (LSIS) 2012.

In this regard, government officials from the central and provincial level, development partners and civil society met in Vientiane on October 9 and 10 to discuss and plan ways to improve the access to Family Planning in the country.

In addition to discuss and agree on a concrete action plan to accelerate progress on addressing the unmet need for Family Planning in the next five years, the Ministry of Health (MoH) presented the progress and opportunities of the country regarding family planning as one of the pillars for reducing maternal mortality.

Different Non-Government organizations and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) shared examples of good practices on advancing family planning at the national level.

"Family planning services not only dramatically cut infant and maternal deaths, but also improve the health of mothers and children" said Rizvina De Alwis, UNFPA Representative (a.i).

According to Dr. Bounnak XAYSANASONGKHA, Deputy Director of Health Care Department from the Ministry of Health "the benefits of family planning are not only health-related. This is also a matter of economic and social development. Studies have shown that investing in family planning reduces poverty, increases participation in both education and the workforce and gives women a greater say in their households and communities. The result is higher incomes for families and improved prosperity for the country".

"If young couples don't use family planning, they will face problems. They won't be able to finish school and feed their children. Family Planning is the way for a better future" said Mr. Aiy and Mr. Ko, two 20-year-old students from Vientiane, who attended the meeting on behalf of the Lao Youth Network.

Although the percentage of women who are practicing, or whose sexual partners are practicing, any form of contraception have increased to 50% in recent years according to the LSIS 2012, many mothers keep dying during pregnancy or childbirth, often because they or their partners don't have access to Family Planning information and services.

The unmet need for family planning is highest among young women with little or no education and those who live in poverty.

In the National Reproductive Health Policy (2005), the government of Lao PDR pledges "to improve the availability and sustainability of and access to quality family planning services for all couples and individuals of reproductive age".

The "National Stakeholder Meeting on Addressing the Unmet Need for Family Planning in Lao PDR" was organized by MoH with support from UNFPA.

Mr. Diego DE LA ROSA, Advocacy and Communications Officer, UNFPA, Mob: + 856 20 5993 6509