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What do we need to turn the Sustainable Development Goals' idealism into reality?

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 3/11/2015 Tewodros Melesse

The good news is that countries can reverse historic trends. Indeed some governments are already exceeding expectations on key health goals.
On maternal mortality, for example, according to the latest Overseas Development Institute (ODI) research, many developing countries are already working to boost the availability of trained medical staff and drugs, and the global mortality rate of 195 deaths per 100,000 live births should fall to 152 by 2030.
The bad news is that the Sustainable Development Goal target, of 70 deaths per 100,000 is less than half that.
As is so often the case, where you live is the deciding factor. The ODI says East Asia and Latin America are expected to achieve the target; but in sub-Saharan Africa, rates of death in childbirth are far higher, and are expected to remain at more than 300 by 2030.
And sometimes eminently achievable goals are even more resistant to change.
In 2015, 225 million women will not have access to family planning, resulting in 74 million unplanned pregnancies, ill health and over 290,000 maternal deaths. In fact, according to WHO maternal causes rank number two among causes of mortality in 15-19 year old females globally*.
Twenty-year-old Prudence Mwelwa** could have been another of those statistics.
Recovering in a maternity waiting house set up by Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia, she told our staff she was convinced she would have died if she had tried to have her baby at home in her village. She lost a lot of blood during her delivery and believes that her relatives would not have been able to stem the bleeding.
Prudence's fear is rooted in reality. Maternal mortality rates in Zambia have been appallingly high. UN figures show 591 maternal deaths occur per 100,000 live births. One of the main problems is that less than half of births are attended by a skilled health worker at health institutions.
In Syria, mother-of-five Amal faced a different sort of threat.
The war is taking a devastating toll on family life and the Syrian Family Planning Association (SPFA) is in the front line when it comes to dealing with gender-based violence - an unreported consequence of the national conflict.
Amal had livid bruises on her face and was in a fragile mental state when she was admitted to Al-Halbouni Health clinic. She had been severely beaten by her husband. She told staff: "I don't know if I have any rights or even access to support of any kind. All I know is that I need help."
An estimated 46,500 women will suffer gender based violence, including rape, as a result of the ongoing conflicts. The SFPA is involving men to find lasting solutions to issues of gender-based violence. Thanks to the integrated package of support services provided by Al- Halbouni clinic to her and her husband, they are able to deal with emotional trauma and respect Amals rights.
Then there's Beatrice in Kenya, who has had no access to family planning and has struggled to cope with nine children. Her daughter is determined to have a different life, and, thanks to contraception advice from IPPF's member Family Health Options Kenya, she has been able to choose when and whether to have a child and is able to continue her studies - an option that was unimaginable for her mother.
Clearly it will take an unprecedented, global joint effort if the ambition of the new goals is to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people like these.
IPPF is lending some weight to that collective push - in the form of an ambitious target to reach 45 million new users of contraception by 2020.
This builds on the 15 million new users we reached in the years 2012-2014.
Together this is a total contribution of 60 million new users, and a major step towards the global goal of enabling 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020, as set out by Family Planning 2020 - the movement which came out of the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning.
Women like Prudence, Amal and Beatrice deserve to have the knowledge and rights to make choices about their bodies and their futures. Our pledge to reach a further 45 million new users will help to bring the lofty ambitions set out in the SDGs and FP2020 a little closer to reality.
**(not her real name)

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