BY ORATILE OTSETSWE
The struggle for reproductive rights and choices is ongoing as Botswana grapples with challenges in the provision of Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services to its citizens.
The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) guarantees of family planning choice and reproductive health are yet to be beneficial to women and girls in Botswana.
This was revealed at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Botswana; State of the World Population (SWOP) 2019 Report launch last week. The 2019 report was initiated under the theme: “Unfinished Business: The pursuit of rights and choices for all.”
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ruth Maphorisa, explained that reproductive rights and health rights are human rights and the government of Botswana is continuing to invest significant resources into the health sector.
Maphorisa said there is need to emphasise on primary health care because that is where the government is able to cover anyone.
“The government’s spending on the health sector has increased from 5% in the 1990s to 12.4% in fiscal year 2018-2019. This development demonstrates the government‘s commitment to the realisation of positive health outcomes for all. Botswana has a lot to celebrate for women and girls in the pursuit for universal access to sexual and reproductive health. MoH have recorded over 5O reductions in the maternal mortality ratio between 1990 and 2017” she added.
Botswana‘s teenage pregnancy statistics for girls who are still in schools stands at 13.4%. participants at the launch of the SWOP report challenged the government to give comprehensive sexual education and access to services to adolescents, to avoid pregnancies that pose aggravating risk to maternal and child health due to lack of awareness and services.
Maphorisa added that adolescent pregnancy is unplanned and unwanted and the high teenage pregnancy rate in Botswana is an indication that there is a need for family planning. She said the Botswana Demographic dividend revealed that if the nation reduced the number of unplanned pregnancies the total fertility rate will drop to 3.1 to 2.0 births per women.
The PS furthermore said Botswana is committed to the ICPD aspirations which call to ensure general access for comprehensive reproductive health care including family planning, safe pregnancy, and childbirth sevices, and regulation and sexual transmitted infections.
The SWOP 2019 report states that remarkable gains have been made in sexual and reproductive health and rights since 1969, when UNFPA was established. Despite progress, hundreds of millions of women today still face economic, social, institutional and other barriers that prevent them from making their own decisions about whether, when, how often and with whom to become pregnant.
The report also reveals what the future holds in terms of changes in population growth, contraceptive use and sexual and reproductive health and rights will both determine and be determined by the ability of women and girls to achieve their full potential as members of their societies.
The report launch represented one of the key UNFPA Botswana commemorative events to mark the 25th year since the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) and the 50th year of UNFPA. The SWOP Report is launched by United Nations member states each year to address topical Population and Development issues.