experts from around the globe traveled to Washington to discuss an issue
critical to the health of millions around the world—access to reproductive
health supplies, notably contraceptives and condoms. At the invitation of USAID, the
Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC) gathered to strategize how to
build support for reproductive health supplies in a time when the development
agenda of donors and country governments continues to expand.
The RHSC is a
global partnership dedicated to making essential reproductive health supplies
universally available. PAI, a founding member, currently chairs the Coalition’s
Resource Mobilization and Awareness Working Group, which is dedicated to
achieving political support and increased funding for reproductive health
supplies at the global, regional and country levels. In addition, two other
working groups focus on strengthening the logistics systems for delivery of
reproductive health supplies and on addressing the diverse contributors to the
market for reproductive health supplies, especially the private
Last week’s RHSC
meeting brought together dozens of representatives of the Coalition’s partners
among bilateral and multilateral donor agencies, international institutions and
non-governmental organizations. During the meeting, the Coalition welcomed a
group of representatives from countries across the Latin America and Caribbean
(LAC) region, who shared their experiences with the transition toward national
support for reproductive health supplies. Many of the LAC country
representatives spoke of how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had “paved
the road for contraceptive access” in their countries by helping create demand,
disseminating information, providing technical assistance to governments and
ensuring political commitment through strong advocacy.
reproductive health supplies—including condoms and contraceptives—can
alleviate unnecessary hardship among so many in the developing world. When men and women have access to modern
contraceptives and condoms, they reduce their risk of HIV infection, unintended
pregnancies, abortions and maternal mortality. The RHSC is helping to make these
life-saving supplies more readily accessible. But the coalition cannot act alone. While USAID is the world’s largest
bilateral donor of contraceptives and condoms, the support of the U.S.
government for reproductive health and contraceptives has waned. Funding for family planning has declined
by a staggering 41% (adjusted for inflation) since 1995. As Congress makes the
final determinations for the FY2008 budget, including the annual appropriation
for international family planning, it must support robust funding for the
programs that save so many lives overseas.
Thanks to the work of partnerships such as the RHSC, we are reminded of
the critical need for ongoing advocacy for the programs and supplies that make
women’s lives safer and are a fundamental human right.