+44 (0)207 697 8598

Improving reproductive health adds value to conservation efforts

London, 1st March, 2010. Addressing the unmet family planning needs of the world’s poorest and most isolated populations can add value to conservation efforts, the director of an integrated reproductive health programme told global leaders in London today.

African ministers and British politicians joined conservationist Jonathan Porritt and the British Medical Association’s ethics chief Vivienne Nathanson at the symposium focusing on population dynamics, reproductive health and climate change.

Vik Mohan, a British GP, told delegates about an innovative programme that addresses the needs of women like Vivienne, who lives in a remote village in southwest Madagascar.

The 33-year-old mother of ten is desperate not to have any more children. Exhausted and struggling to feed her growing family, she faces a 50 kilometre hike through dense spiny forest to reach the nearest family planning clinic. Vivienne’s predicament is not unusual; in the last five years, the number of children in her village has doubled. The need to feed them and the rest of the village has led to overfishing, and the degradation of the delicate coral reef fisheries on which they depend.

Dr Mohan responded to the community's desire for reproductive health services by piloting an inexpensive solution – a local family planning clinic. Working for award-winning marine conservation organisation Blue Ventures, and with support from Marie Stopes International and the Population and Sustainability Network, his team has offered contraceptive options to those living in coastal villages around Andavadoaka in southwest Madagascar since 2007.

Dr Mohan explains: “The women and men who come to our reproductive health clinics are crying out for the means to plan and better provide for their families. 20% of the predicted global population growth over the next 40 years will be due to unintended births, yet these have the potential to be reduced by over two thirds with adequate healthcare provision. Much of this growth will be in areas of high biodiversity, and the communities that are the custodians of that biodiversity often don't have access to family planning. What our programme demonstrates is the effectiveness of taking an integrated approach to public health and conservation within a rights-based framework.”

The International Policy Symposium on the Connections between Population Dynamics, Reproductive Health and Rights, and Climate Change took place at the British Medical Association in London hosted by the BMA, the Population and Sustainability Network, the Commonwealth Medical Association Trust, and the Africa office of Partners in Population and Development.