Report by OD bureau; Bhubaneswar: Ms. Frederika Meijer, UNFPA Country Representative, during her first visit to Odisha had series of meetings with Honorable Chief Minister, Health Minister, Senior Government Officials and NGO Representatives.
During her meeting she appreciated pace of improvement in Reproductive Health indicators particularly reduction in Maternal and Infant Mortality, though state has a long way to go. The median age of the population of the state is 27.2 years with a youth bulge. Investing in Reproductive Health Needs of young population will be an intelligent investment for the economic boost of the state, Ms. Meijer added. Health including reproductive health is critical to ensure that young people realize their full potential during productive years of life.
The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) which indicates average number of children born to a woman during her reproductive life is 2.3 for Odisha against a national average of 2.6. However, the state has a challenge for meeting the high unmet need for contraception particularly among age group of 15-24 years (NFHS – III). Therefore ensuring information and services for spacing methods in family planning is vital.
Although the median age at marriage for girls in Odisha is 20.5 years better than the national average of 19.7 years there exists wide inter and intra district variations within the state. In the southern tribal districts nearly half of the girls are married before 18 years and in Ganjam which has nearly 8% of the state’s population, about 30 percent girls get married before the legal age.
Low age at marriage and poor understanding of reproductive health issues results in too early, too frequent and too many pregnancies, with danger to the life of mother and newborn. As per global estimates, Family Planning alone can reduce the maternal mortality by one third. Contraception and family planning reduces health risks by delaying the first pregnancy that carries higher risk in young women, cuts down on unsafe abortions that account for nearly 8% of all maternal deaths in India; and controls danger associated with pregnancies that are too closely spaced.
Ms. Frederika informed that the focus of UNFPA’s next program cycle (2013-17) of partnership with Odisha will have focus on young people (including adolescents), promote and support voluntary family planning, facilitate multi-sectoral response to promote dignity of girl child including curbing sex selection. UNFPA in partnership with the government will focus on improving the reproductive health outcomes of tribal population in the state.
Ms. Frederica appreciated the state’s effort in making contraceptive availability along with counseling services through ASHA at the community level and expressed satisfaction that this initiative would effectively address the Unmet Need of the eligible couples in spacing methods.