The role of emerging economy countries in promoting population and reproductive health programmes has received greater attention on how it has impacted development in the region. Many of them have committed to the international development to Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 8, “Global Partnership For Development”.
In addition, commitments made by the world leaders to achieve access to reproductive health, including family planning, by year 2015 at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994 have also served as international commitment to population development.
Contribution & Support
The contribution between developing countries has changed the development landscape. As these relationships have continued to expand, parliamentarians from emerging economies will also play a crucial role in promoting South-South Cooperation in family planning and social and reproductive health to promote ICPD implementation.
As the effective programmes and policies for the promotion of South-South Cooperation require a support from parliamentarians to influence policies and programmes, Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) and the European Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (EPF) with the support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had initiated a Regional Consultation on “Emerging Economies and Population: Reproductive Health Programmes”. It was organized on 30 – 31 August 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Consultation attracted 32 distinguished participants from six emerging economy countries (India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam), Germany and Spain and 11 resource persons from related organizations such as UNFA, TICA, IPPF and Mahidol University, Bangkok.
I was heading the 3-member Malaysian delegation. The other two distinguished members were Hon. P. Kamalanathan and Hon. Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud.
The purpose of the Consultation was to review the health situation in the region and discuss the role of emerging economy countries in supporting health and population development programmes vis-s-vis ICPD Programme of Actions on Health related to MDG 4 on Reducing Child Mortality, MDG 5 on Improving Maternal Health and MDG 6 on HIV/AID, Malaria and other diseases.
Additionally, the objectives were to sensitize parliamentarians from emerging economy countries on the health situation especially on the reproductive health in the region and to explore a possible development cooperation and resource mobilization between emerging economy countries and other developing countries, including LDCs within the South-South Cooperation Framework.
The health situation in the region (South Asia and South East Asia), as expected, exhibited significant variation and seemed to be correlated with the socio-economic and political landscape of a given country.
For example, Afghanistan and Myanmar recorded the highest crude death rate (CBR) of between 10 – 17 per 1,000 population as compared to that of Malaysia and Philippines (below 5 per 1,000 population).
Life expectancy of females in Afghanistan and Cambodia was 40 years and 60 years respectively as compared to that of Malaysia and Sri Lanka which was around 75 years.
Top two highest maternal death rates (per 100,000 live births) were recorded in Afghanistan (1,800) and Nepal (830) while two lowest maternal death rates were registered in Malaysia (62) and Sri Lanka (58). This phenomenon seemed to be correlated with deliveries by skilled attendances.
In Afghanistan and Nepal only 14% and 19% deliveries were respectively handled by skilled attendances as compared to that of 98% in Malaysia 99% in Sri Lanka.
The situation could be partially explained by the prevailing poverty rates (below US$1.25 per day) in the respective countries. In Nepal, 55% of the population was below that threshold as compared to that of 1.3% in Malaysia and 14% in Sri Lanka. There was no similar data for Afghanistan.
Overall, based on the related indicators presented by Dr Kanittha Chamroonsawasdi, Malaysia occupied a very respectable position – either no.1, no. 2 or no. 3. Syabas!
This sweet success is the resultant ‘balanced development approach’ combined with ‘growth with distribution policy’ adopted by the government and the right priority given to education and health under the 5-Year Development Plans as well as the annual budget.
On the achievements of the Consultation per se, it is praiseworthy to note that it had managed to promote greater understanding on the health situation in the region among parliamentarians and to solicit commitment to support population and reproductive health programmes in developing countries. Concurrently, it had managed to widen the window of opportunity in enhancing the partnership in health related programmes between emerging economy countries and the Least Developing Countries (LDCs).
At the final session, the Consultation adopted a Statement of Commitment which, among other things,:
• urged the governments of emerging economy countries to increase the level of funding to national population programmes and promote technological exchange and knowledge sharing in the health related programmes;
• called upon governments to provide financial support to multilateral agencies as well as NGOs working in the areas of population development, family planning and reproductive health such as NFPA and IPPF; and
• called upon each government to ensure its commitment on the Joint Action Plan for Maternal and Child Health to be made at the Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York in September 2010.
During the Consultation, I did make a few interventions. I do hope the Secretariat would diligently deliberate further on the following suggestions:
• to establish broad demographic benchmarks for different socio-economic landscape in respect of certain indicators, for example, population dependency ratio, fertility rate and crude birth rate which could be useful to be adopted/adapted as planning targets and as quantitative as well as qualitative measurements of success ;
• to treat spending in health sector as an investment and not as an expenditure and calculate the various “ROI” and its respective contribution to GDP, FDI etc;
• to include input, output, thru put, outcome and impact in the ‘equation’ when deliberating relevant population development and health programmes; and
• to value add demographic studies with other related fields such as economics, religion and education.
With such value-added information, the relevant governments / bodies would be in a better position to favourably consider the above Statement of Commitment.
Finally, I wish to sincerely thank the Malaysian Government / Parliament, particularly YB Dato’ Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, Chairman of Malaysian AFPPD, in selecting me as one of the participants and having the confidence in me to be the head of the delegation.