HC Deb 26 April 2004 vol 420 cc766-7W
Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking through(a) bilateral programmes, (b) EU development assistance programmes and (c) other programmes to increase the percentage of women of reproductive age in Africa who use contraceptives. [167209]

Hilary Benn

Over one third of maternal deaths could be avoided if effective family planning services to avoid unwanted pregnancies were available and accessible. The Department for International Development therefore attaches particular importance to increasing women's access to reproductive health (RH) services including family planning. DFID champions reproductive health through our bilateral country programmes either through direct support to the health sector or through general budget support. Under DFID's bilateral programmes, contraceptives are normally provided as an integral part of broader programmes to promote sexual and reproductive health and prevent HIV/AIDS. DFID also supports the strengthening of national systems and capacity to plan, use and monitor supplies of medicines and commodities including for reproductive health. Since 1997 DFID has committed over £1.5 billion to health systems globally.

DFID spent over £270 million globally on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS programmes in 2002–03, (about two thirds of this support was targeted at sub-Saharan Africa), and is one of the leading bilateral providers of condoms (for men and women) and other forms of contraception to developing countries. Many of DFID's HIV/AIDS programmes include large components for social marketing of condoms. In Nigeria we have committed £52.8 million for a condom social marketing programme that combines procurement and distribution with encouraging behaviour change, communication and capacity building.

The UK's significant contributions to the European Commission Development Budget and the European Development Fund cannot be tracked back specifically for use on Reproductive Healthcare in Africa. Most EC resources are allocated by region or country in response to country government's own priorities, and details of the proportion of UK support for reproductive health are not available centrally. However, the UK has been working hard within the EU to protect the principles agreed at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994. The Cairo Agenda redefined sexual and reproductive health and rights. DFID and our EU partners are pushing to generate more political commitment for reproductive health and reproduction health rights, in for as such as the World Health Assembly and the UN Commission for Population, and Development to protect the gains made in Cairo which are now under pressure. The Netherlands are planning to highlight reproductive health and the need to have contraception readily available in their forthcoming EU Presidency. The UK has been in discussions with the Netherlands about how to maintain the momentum around this subject during the UK's Presidency of the EU in 2005.

DFID is a major donor to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and supports the Fund's work to provide the widest achievable range of safe and effective family planning and contraceptive methods. DFID also provides support to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which is the world's largest voluntary reproductive health organisation.