Vientiane, 3 May 2017
Lao People’s Democratic Republic held its first-ever national family planning conference, with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), a global initiative. Other UN partners, such as UNICEF, WHO and UNAIDS participated actively in the event.
Photo: UNFPA Lao PDR
“Investing in family planning will contribute to the long term prosperity of our country under the umbrella of the 2030 Agenda, this is reflected in the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan, a comprehensive blueprint for our future.” said Dr. Sonexay Siphandone, Deputy Prime Minister of Lao PDR.
Globally, family planning has contributed significantly to preventing maternal and child morbidity and mortality. Reducing maternal mortality remains a priority under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, at all ages.
“Family planning provides a choice to individuals and families to work towards a future where every pregnancy is wanted and every child birth is safe,” explained Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bounkong Syhavong, Minister to the Ministry of Health. “We have seen Laos’ maternal mortality ratio decline to 206 per 100,000 live births in 2015, surpassing the target we had set under the criteria for Laos to graduate from Least Developed Country status in 2020. We could not have done this without family planning along with strengthened midwifery services.”
Some challenges still remain as the unmet need for family planning is high at 20 per cent and even higher – around 31 per cent – in some ethnic groups. Unmet need for family planning is defined as the percentage of women of reproductive age, either married or in a union, who want to stop or delay childbearing but are not using any method of contraception.
The adolescent birth rate is 76 live births per 1,000 girls in the 15-19 years age group. Adolescent contraceptive use is low at 22.3 per cent, and unmet need for contraception is 22.6 per cent.
Political will and improved access to family planning will reduce the number of adolescent pregnancies, and a multi-sectoral effort is needed to encourage young women to remain in schools, maintain good health and break intergenerational poverty by making positive changes now.
“Family planning empowers women, it contributes to gender equality while increasing women’s autonomy in their households and improving their earning power” noted Dr. Kikeo Chanthaboury, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment.
Along with UNFPA, significant support has been provided to Lao PDR’s family planning programme by Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), a global initiative funded by a range of donor governments and institutions, and hosted by the United Nations Foundation.
Under FP2020, Lao PDR has made both policy and political commitments, including the revision of the country’s Reproductive Health Policy to promote an enabling environment for family planning and develop a national information, education and communication and behaviour change communication strategy on family planning.
The government has also made programme and service delivery commitments, including the scaling up of family planning services to health centres at village levels to increase the access to reproductive health and information for adolescents.
UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO extended the UN joint program on Maternal and Child Health to include Adolescent Health for 2017-2020. The conference included a presentation on family planning that will enable the country to meet the target of universal health coverage and other SDG objectives.
These and several other measures aim to significantly boost key indicators, including reducing the unmet need for contraception to 13 per cent by 2020 and increasing the contraceptive prevalence rate - the percentage of women who are currently using, or whose partner is currently using, at least one method of contraception - from 42 per cent to 65 per cent by 2020.
“Ultimately, family planning must be seen in the wider context of sexual and reproductive health and rights, not only in Lao PDR but globally. UN agencies will offer our support to the Government and the people of Lao PDR in order to improve access to safe voluntary family planning which is a human right,” said Frederika Meijer, UNFPA Representative in Lao PDR.
For more information please contact:
Center of Information Education for Health, Ministry of Health: Mr. Visith Khamlusa – Deputy Director
Tel: +856 21 316 274
Fax: +856 21 316 273
UNFPA: Ms Kay amphone Singhalath – Communication Associate
Tel: +856 21 267 680
Fax: +856 21 267 799