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Well Done! Australia Adds More Funds for Sexual and Reproductive Health Program

Flickr - U.S. Pacific Fleet

Today the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop MP, announced that the Australian government would continue to support sexual and reproductive health and rights during humanitarian crisis.

The government currently partners with the International Planned Parenthood Federation to deliver the Sexual and Reproductive Health Program in Crisis and Post Crisis Settings (SPRINT) in the Indo-Pacific region. Over the next three years they will provide a further $9.5 million to the SPRINT program bringing the total contribution since 2007 up to $26.3 million.

In a media release from the Foreign Minister’s Office today, the impact of the program was made clear.

“Through SPRINT, Australia and the International Planned Parenthood Federation have helped over 890,000 people access sexual and reproductive health services in crisis-affected places, including in response to recent disasters in Fiji, Nepal and Vanuatu,” the statement read.

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Complications from reproductive and sexual health is one of the leading causes of death and disability in women and girls today. In face over 500 women and girls are reported to die every day from complications from pregnancy and childbirth in emergency settings.

“SPRINT provides safer birthing environments, family planning services, HIV prevention and treatment, protection against sexual violence and assistance to survivors of rape and violence in crisis-affected places,” according to the statement.

We welcome this positive news especially in light of US President Donald Trump’s recent “global gag rule," which prevents any US aid from being given to organisations that discuss abortion, even if it is legal in the country where it is performed.

The Gates Foundation expressed their grave concern for how this will impact health outcomes for the world’s poorest in their annual letter.

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Last year the United Nations Population Fund released a report finding there was still a unmet need for supporting women and girls sexual and reproductive health and rights during a crisis.

The report explains how “...a crisis can exacerbate existing inequalities and heighten women’s and girl’s risks and vulnerabilities to HIV infection, unintended and unwanted pregnancy, maternal death, gender-based violence, child marriage, rape and trafficking.”

While in other corners of the globe women’s health and reproductive rights are facing challenges, we hope that this funding announcement will go a long way in protecting women and girls when a disaster strikes in our region.