New Zealand will invest NZ$30 million over five years to improve access to contraceptives and reproductive health services in the Pacific.
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced this during her visit to Papua New Guinea this week.
The funding will help address adolescent pregnancy rates, maternal mortality, and sexual and gender-based violence.
Pacific Island countries and territories have had mixed results in terms of their progress towards achieving sexual health related goals.
“Aotearoa New Zealand already works closely with partners offering sexual and reproductive health services throughout the region, including here in Papua New Guinea, but we recognise much more needs to be done,” said Ms Mahuta.
“We are investing a further NZ$30 million US$18 million) over five years for government and non-government agencies working across the Pacific to improve care and access to health services in this area.
“There are substantial challenges for some communities, like women and young people, those in remote locations or vulnerable minorities, to access services and information to help make their own decisions about sexual and reproductive choices and healthcare.
“The funding will help address high adolescent pregnancy rates, high levels of maternal mortality, and sexual and gender-based violence, amongst other health and wellbeing needs.”
According to a report by the Pacific Community, structural factors such as the economic, social, political and cultural context, and other aspects of the environment, contribute to the poor health outcomes within the region and require greater attention.
Gender inequality and existing gender roles, norms and expectations have adverse effects on women’s sexual and reproductive health and contribute to gender-based violence and forced sex.
Sexual and reproductive health rights are yet to be realised in many countries. Legislation continues to be in place that fails to protect people living with HIV, fails to promote women’s rights to make free and responsible sexual and reproductive health choices and discriminates against diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
The funding provided will focus on family planning, strengthening health systems within countries, and grassroots advocacy and training efforts.
The investment recognises the need for safe, locally driven approaches to healthcare, and it supports partners’ ambitions and strategies.
While the primary emphasis will be on sexual and reproductive health, it is also intended that this commitment supports women and girls to grow their leadership potential, and reinforces the importance of taking care of their wider health and well-being.
New Zealand’s investment is directed to public and private sector partners like Pacific Ministries of Health, the United Nations Population Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation, the International Women’s Development Agency and Marie Stopes International.