Parliamentary Network for Population, Development opened
Anthony Lino Makana the Speaker of TNLA and Dr. Mary Otieno UNFPA Country Representative cut the ribbon of the new office (photo by Jale Richard):
By Jale Richard
A new Parliamentary Network for Population and Development has been launched in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) yesterday.
The network initiated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the TNLA will help to promote, protect human rights and welfare of all people, especially women, children, and to put universal attainment of enjoyment of reproductive health rights at the core of population, development, and the realization of demographic dividend in South Sudan.
It is also aimed at promoting reproductive health, including family planning, prevention of HIV/AIDs and sexually transmitted infections, prevention of harmful practices such as Child Marriage and Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
The launch came a day after the world marked the 2018 World Population Day under the theme “Family planning is human right.”
The Speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, Anthony Lino Makana promised that “we would push for increment of funds to the health sector in the 2018/2019 budget yet to be tabled.”
He said if the government spend a lot in the health sector, many of the preventable diseases such as cholera, typhoid and malaria could be prevented.
Dr. Alexander Dimity, Director General of Reproductive Health at the Ministry of Health in his presentation to the parliamentarians revealed that South Sudan’s maternal mortality ratio still ranked among the highest in the world with 789 per 100,000 live births as estimated by the World Bank and the UN in 2015.
Child pregnancy was also high, with 300 girls getting pregnant while still in their teens for every 1,000 girls. Four out of every 10 girls get married before their eighteenth birthday.
Dr. Mary Otieno, UNFPA’s Country Representative said the new network gave her hope that affirmative actions would be realized.
“Actions in terms of putting in place policies and legislations that will generate greater interest and high-level support for family planning as a human right and vital investment for family health and human development,” she said.
She assured that UNFPA would continue working hand-in-hand with the parliamentarians to educate the people about rights-based family planning, the roles of rights-holders and duty bearers, and the availability of family planning services in the country.
With an estimated population of over 12 million, 51 per cent of whom are below 18 years (2016, National Bureau of Statistics), a total fertility rate (or average number of children per woman) of 7.5, a population growth rate of 3 per cent per year, and contraceptive prevalence rate of below 5 per cent, South Sudan is at a crossroad.
Dr. Otieno said the young population needed to be balanced with investments in health, education, human productivity – including creating opportunities for gainful employment, and removal of all barriers to empowerment of women and girls to guarantee a prosperous future for South Sudan.
“It is not all grim and impossible for South Sudan to make family planning a human right enjoyed by its people,” she noted. This is where the role of the South Sudan Parliamentary Network for Population and Development can make a great impact,” she added.
The Undersecretary of Ministry of Health, Dr. Makur Koryom said the parliamentarians should ensure that the health sector is allocated enough resources in order to perform its duties.
“Health is economy, you cannot talk about economic growth when you spend less on health,” he said.
Dr. Makur emphasized the need to empower women to be leaders so that they can take decisions in families and communities especially when they are in labour.
“They die while giving birth because of what we have become particularly we the men. We have to let women take decisions to go to hospitals and empower them through education,” he added.